Home > Game Recaps, Preseason > Panthers open pre-season with loss to Ravens

Panthers open pre-season with loss to Ravens

The final score says that the Ravens defeated the Panthers 17-12 Thursday night in Baltimore, but we all know that the final score of a pre-season game means practically nothing. It’s the individual achievements of the players that really matter. How did the veterans look after a long off-season? Which rookies made a name for themselves? Who moved up the depth chart thanks to good play?

If you watched the same game that I did, you will not like the answers to those questions.

The Panthers looked sloppy for the majority of the game. Granted the 2nd half was played on a slip-n-slide due to the rain, but the starters looked pretty rusty in their first half action. Especially the offensive line. They were manhandled by the Ravens’ defense, allowing the Baltimore linemen to get consistent pressure on the quarterback and disrupt most of the passing plays that were called. And the passes that did manage to get past the defense were for naught as stupid penalties negated nice pass plays by Matt Moore. Jordan Gross looked completely lost on the field last night, and hopefully that can be attributed to his extended time off last year after injuring his leg and ending up on IR.

There’s bound to be a quarterback controversy in Carolina after the struggles of Moore (even if they weren’t completely his fault), because backup rookie sensation Jimmy Clausen came in and played well. He led the offense down the field and would have led the offense to a touchdown if not for Brandon LaFell’s drop in the end zone or Tyrell Sutton’s fumble at the 1-yard line. Clausen looked more confident than a rookie playing in his first game against an NFL defense, and he made quick decisions and took care of the football very well (he threw one interception on a fluke play when the receiver slipped and fell down in the middle of his route). (Clausen highlights can be seen here.*)

One guy who impressed me on offense was fullback Tony Fiametta. Fiametta is replacing former fullback Brad Hoover as the lead blocker for Double Trouble, and he looked good in the time he was in the game. He made a few nice blocks, and even made  a couple of nice catches for good yardage. If he keeps playing like he played last night, we won’t miss Hoover at all. Hopefully he can keep it up and the running game doesn’t suffer because of poor fullback play.

The defense looked sloppy overall, but there were a few good plays from a couple of guys who stood out in a positive way. Rookies Greg Hardy and Eric Norwood had nice showings, but things didn’t go so well for Captain Munnerlyn, who proved that he isn’t ready to get significant playing time outside of the nickel spot. Tyler Brayton had a few nice plays, until he left the game in the first half after injuring his ankle (it doesn’t appear to be serious – he walked off the field under his own power), but Everette Brown was nowhere to be found.

Special teams were decent, but not as good as they could be. Jason Baker had some nice punts, but the coverage struggled to get down field in time to take advantage of the good kicks. The kickoff team needs some work, and the Panthers are still in need of someone who can kick off and give the coverage a chance to get down the field in time to make a tackle, as they gave up a few returns that could have been avoided with better hang time on the kicks. Armanti Edwards looked decent in his first game as a punt returner, but he has a lot of work to do before he’s ready to take the role full time when the games count. The kickoff return team didn’t get much of a chance to show what they can do, as the Ravens kicked the ball in the end zone almost every time they kicked off.

There seemed to be a few problems with the snap on field goal plays, as John Kasay missed an extra point due to a bad snap/hold, and a field goal attempt was denied at the end of the first half because of a poor snap that prevented the holder from getting the ball down in time for a kick.

On the bright side, most of the problems the team had against the Ravens are fixable, and it’s normal to have some rust in the first pre-season game. I’m going to hold off on any major judgment until I see this type of play carry over into the 2nd and 3rd pre-season games.  If they still look like crap after the 3rd game, then I will start to have some concern.

Overall, it was a decent effort by the Panthers. Too bad they didn’t get a win, but again, it doesn’t really matter at this point, because the wins and losses mean absolutely nothing in the pre-season.

And not that I’m counting, but last night’s loss marks the 6th straight pre-season loss by the Panthers. Maybe that streak can end next week when they take on the Jets at the Bank.

Not that it matters, because as long as the starters get in quality work and stay healthy, everything else is gravy. After all, it is just the pre-season.

* * * *

* – Video courtesy of NFL.com

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