Sure, it’s just preseason. But it’s still worth pointing out the things I liked and the things I didn’t in Carolina’s 24-17 loss against the New York Giants:
5 THINGS I LIKED
1. Mike Goodson – It says something that the Panthers’ breakout player of the first exhibition also fumbled the ball twice and embarrassed Carolina on national TV by making a terrible throat-slash gesture after his TD (don’t try that one at home, kids). But Goodson has undeniable speed and – since Jonathan Stewart can be injury-prone – he’s another exciting option as a change-up for DeAngelo Williams. Now he just needs to keep both hands on the ball before they get him into trouble again.
2. James Anderson – Had a sack and blocked a punt for a safety while also filling in decently as a starter for injured LB Thomas Davis.
3. Dan Connor – Nice to see the guy who missed almost all of last season with a torn ACL come back and look like he still had his instincts.
4. Jon Gruden – The former Tampa Bay coach will be entertaining as an “MNF” analyst. He sure likes DeAngelo Williams: Gruden made the case in the broadcast that DeAngelo is the best back in the NFL.
5. Hunter Cantwell – The 4th-string QB threw Carolina’s only TD pass of the night with a minute left, then converted the two-pointer to tie the game at 17 (to the chagrin of many, including the MNF announcers, who obviously wanted to get the heck out of there and not see an overtime). Cantwell then obliged them with a turnover on the game’s last play from scrimmage that the Giants ran in for a gift TD and a sudden "Game over."
5 Things I didn’t like
1. Turnover Central: It was shades of the Arizona playoff game as Carolina’s offense at one point managed to turn the ball over three times in four plays (and nearly four in five, except Mike Goodson’s second fumble of the night was recovered). The Panthers ended up with 5 turnovers altogether.
Goodson obviously must work on ball security – it’s a problem with him and will concern John Fox a lot more than the throat slash gesture. Other than that, the biggest lesson here was the Panthers better not get any offensive linemen hurt, because the second unit isn’t ready.
2. First-team defense: There was little to like in the Panthers’ first unit, which played less than a quarter yet managed to allow a 6-play, 77-yard TD drive during that time. On the TD play – a 19-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw -- Jon Beason was thoroughly blocked and Chris Gamble and Charles Godfrey both got run over.
3. David Carr – As any Panther fan with a decent memory might recall, Carr was once the Panthers’ next great hope at QB when Jake Delhomme went down in 2007. A bunch of jittery incompletions later, he went to New York as a backup – and managed to burn the Panthers’ second-teamers for a screen-pass TD Monday night.
4. Panther stars – Julius Peppers lined up mainly on the right side and had an invisible quarter while he played. Jake Delhomme looked somewhat lost without Steve Smith and had a desultory first quarter (although no turnovers) before checking out very early. DeAngelo was decent but didn't have enough time to be spectacular.
5. Run defense – The Giants’ top 2 runners had 9 carries for 66 yards before retiring early. Carolina obviously needs to sign another 330-pound DT – the Giants might have had 2 100-yard backs if this had been a regular-season game.