Preseason issues could linger for Panthers
Posted August 16, 2013
Preseason football is tricky business.
Opinions on the Carolina Panthers shouldn't be swayed by the final result of Thursday's game in Philadelphia. Win or lose, it's impossible to get a true interpretation out of a meaningless game played in the middle of August.
By the time the second half rolls around, the field is filled with players hoping just to make the next round of roster cuts. It's like trying to gain a true appreciation of your favorite musical artists by listening to a group of tipsy college students on a karaoke night.
Now that we got that out of the way, let's throw caution to the wind and indulge ourselves in a little overreacting following Carolina's forgettable night against the Eagles.
The defensive starters played most of the first half and struggled to stop Chip Kelly's no-huddle offense. While it was nice to see Carolina force three turnovers, the first interception and fumble came at the end of sustained drives of 72 yards and 52 yards, respectively. Subsequent drives by the Eagles resulted in two touchdowns. In total, the Panthers allowed the Eagles to rack up over 250 yards by the end of the half.
It was tough to get a read on an offense missing Johnathan Stewart, who is still recovering from ankle surgery, and Mike Tolbert. In their absence, DeAngelo Williams carried the ball 12 times for 39 yards. Considering most of the offseason talking points have centered on Ron Rivera getting back to basics and utilizing the assets built for power football, that's a good indication the coaching staff will actually follow through.
Meanwhile, Cam Newton will get a fair amount of attention after he struggled to remain consistent in drives that resulted only in a couple of field goals. Aside from the lone touchdown against Chicago in the first preseason game, there hasn't been much production.
There are reasonable explanations, including conservative play calling and the search for a viable wide receiving option beyond Steve Smith and Greg Olsen. The Panthers didn't really do anything to address the lack of catching threats, despite the acquisition of Ted Ginn, Jr. in the offseason. He caught just two passes in 13 games for San Francisco last season.
So that leaves the trio of David Gettis, Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards to finally breakthrough.
And therein lies the rub for the Panthers. When general manager Dave Gettleman talked about Newton's stats being "lost in the sauce" due to the 13-19 record and the time to win was now, I'm not exactly sure the expectations for this team are any different from last year. The Panthers are a borderline playoff team.
While Newton deserves his own share of the blame for his mistakes, Carolina won't be making the postseason again if the defense continues to give up big drives. Unfortunately, fans and pundits saw little of that changing based on Thursday night in Philadelphia.