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Preseason Priorities

I have seen enough to know that I have seen to much. That is, too much terrible playing from both lines of the Panthers. If this was a mock week for the regular season, I would rather Rivera take it back to what we did week 1 of the preseason. Even then there wasn’t much to talk about, but “W’s” are better than “L’s.” Right now the Panthers have some serious concerns on offense and defense and so far, the starters have done very little to brag about.


Since the 2011 draft, Carolina fans have been shouting to the moon about how big of a QB Cam Newton is going to be for Carolina’s offense. I am a big supporter for Cam as the starter, but I think all of the great things that have been said about Cam are creating a false sense of confidence for the rookie and making him think that he is doing better than he is. In post game interviews he has remained humble but determined and these are traits that will be valued more and more as the season progresses. Even if he gets a new tattoo. As for performance, Cam has thrown 13 completions in 33 attempts for a whopping 141 yards in the past two games. Andy Dalton struggled in his first two starts but managed to put up 11 for 17 and 130 yards with a TD in this one. I hope Cam took some notes for the game against the Steelers. I had Carolina to win this game, but luckily I didn’t have an opportunity to write a pregame assessment.


Inaccuracy is one of the biggest concerns for the would be starter in Arizona and now it looks like Cam is not as comfortable in the pocket as he once seemed. He has a tendency to rush passes where he might have a little more time or just needs to step up in the pocket and make a confident pass. There have been a few options that are anticipation routes down field and Cam needs to find some of those. He doesn’t have any INT’s. So it might be worth it to take a shot down field and see what needs to be done to get some big plays. Right now he wants to make the sure play, but then rushes the throw and forces the receiver to make the play. The play should just be the catch and then running not running to make a catch. On the plus side, Cam had 4 rushes for 49 yards including a 16 yard TD. This will be the icing on the cake when the Panthers are ready to compete. Congratulations on the TD Cam. Now shake it off get back to it because that’s only one in three games and you need a lot more this season if you want to really make an impact.


To Cam’s defense, or should I say to Cam’s offensive protection, I have to say that they are putting a lot more pressure than necessary on the rookie to make an off-balance throw for third downs. It is hard enough to make NFL passes without being forced to do them on the run. With Cam’s size, his ability to run and extend the play gives him a good advantage over many rookie QBs. However, if Cam is to become more accurate with his passing, there has got to be more push from the O-line, both for the pass and the run. With a run tandem that has the potential to put up over 2,200 yards in a season, 108 yards combined per game is garbage. Instead of calling out names on the O-line, for those that have DVR, go back and look at how many plays there were where nearly all of the line was on the ground. It’s astounding. Either the Panthers are really missing Otah, or something is really wrong with the game plan for this group.


After such a horrible 2010 season, one of the only things we could say something good about was the defense. Breaking up pass plays, stuffing the run, making plays in the backfield and sometimes more. The Panthers did absolutely none of that against Cincinnati aside from one fumble recovery on a missed handoff by Dalton to Benson and another against the Bengals’ second string in the second half. The only two players that came to play were Thomas Davis with 11 tackles and James Anderson with 8. The D-line made almost every play from the Bengals look like a highlight reel for best blocking 2011. Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott both ran for over 60 yards and a TD each. They had the tandem game that the Panthers should have. Yet again, one of the vets made a rookie look like a star in the match up between Chris Gamble and A.J. Green. Twice Gamble got burned and one time he paid for it with a TD. Afterwards he was escorted to the locker rooms for a minor injury where the commentators thought they were “rubbing some aloe on him for all of the burns,”caused by Green. The Panthers still lack Jon Beason and DE Greg Hardy, but there is only so much they can do if the secondary leaves players open for long TD passes.


Priority one is defense. They need to do some heavy scouting for waived players from other teams to fill in some of the gaps. It looks like they’ve missed their chance to pick up any big names at CB so they might be stuck with the hand they’re dealt there. Things could get better with the acquisition of DT Kentwan Balmer, to help add some size with experience that they’ve been missing since Ron Edwards tore his triceps. Sione Fua and Terrell McClain are too raw right now to be effective, but again it looks like they will be playing. As the defensive leader, Beason is set to come back maybe by week 2, until then we may see some ugly games on defense. Either the pass rush or the run stop is a must because I doubt we’ll have both this year.


Priority two is to find some guys to put on the O-line. Otah can still make an impact when he returns but the big question isn’t when, it’s how long will he play? There has to be some depth in that area if that’s where our biggest problem is. Also, Jordan Gross needs to step his game up or Rivera needs to find someone to give him some tough job competition. If there is no run game, the rookie QB will have to work twice as hard for even the check downs. It will make worlds of difference if we can find a way to consistently shorten the field without relying so much on the run.


After game 3 of the preseason, the Panthers are beginning to look a lot like last year. That is truly a scary thought knowing the amount of money that was shelled out to keep many of last year’s team intact. Is it the coaching? Is it the new offensive/defensive schemes? Is it motivation? There is a disconnect and something has got to give other than the lines.


This is merely a harsh assessment of a bad game, in the preseason, with a team that needs to gel. I believe in the abilities from each of the players mentioned because I’ve seen it. Too many players are projecting uncertainty on the field and it’s beginning to overshadow the talent. Still, this is what the preseason is for. Get the kinks out and find a way to make big plays. Cam will prove to be a very useful QB, but it is up to him if we will see him as a successful one. The last preseason game is against Pittsburgh and will be a very hard earned win, if it is meant to be. The point is not only working for the win, but how you get there. Pass protection, run stop, and 3rd down conversions are three good ways to start. Let’s see it Cats.

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