It was only the preseason, of course, but the Carolina Panthers were both impressive and interesting Saturday night in the Panthers’ 20-10 win over the New York Giants in Charlotte. While the duel between the two quarterbacks was basically a draw – Cam Newton led the Panthers to two field goals, while starter Jimmy Clausen threw a touchdown pass to his own team and one to the Giants – Carolina’s defense and special teams were very solid and the offense was just good enough to win.
So, after an eight-month absence, it's time for a new edition of "5 thoughts"...
1. Of the Panthers’ three quarterbacks who played Saturday night, it was Derek Anderson who actually had the best ratio of points per offensive series for Carolina. Anderson got Carolina into the end zone on his first series – albeit against a collection of reserves – and gave the Panthers a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.
2. What about that Panther defense? Missing five starters due to various nagging injuries, it stonewalled Eli Manning whenever the Giants starter was in the game. The Giants’ only touchdown in the game came on an interception return on Clausen’s second pass.
3. Among the improvements in Ron Rivera’s first Panther team compared to John Fox’s last one: the kick coverage and return teams seem to be worth watching again. Other than Newton, Panther fans want no one to succeed more than Armanti Edwards, and he got off to a great start Saturday by breaking multiple tackles on both his first and second punt returns. (Edwards also had a 36-yard catch on a pass from Newton). The Panthers won the field-position battle for most of the game and also blocked a field goal, all of which was key.
4. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski won some hearts and minds in the Carolinas with his very first play call as a Panther. In a steady downpour, he had Clausen line up in the shotgun and had the quarterback looking downfield. Clausen fired a great pass and Brandon LaFell caught it for 31 yards.
5. A few young Panther players who caught my eye in a positive way: cornerback R.J. Stanford, wide receiver Kealoha Pilares, Edwards, linebacker/special teamer Jordan Senn, cornerback Kendric Burney and special-teamer Michael Greco.