Like many of you, I wasn't in New Jersey but watched the Panthers edge the N.Y. Jets 17-12 in an exhibition Sunday night on television. Ten quick thoughts:
1) I love watching Luke Kuechly. For a couple of Jets series, I ignored the ball entirely and just focused on No.59. It was remarkable. He and the ball ended up intersecting at almost every play.
I don't care how many linebackers the Panthers have and even if they all return, miraculously, to become completely healthy all season. Kuechly still needs to start and play every snap he possibly can. Cris Collinsworth said Kuechly was "already one of the best players on this team," and I completely agree.
2) If I'm the Panthers, I sit every starter on both sides of the ball for exhibition game No.4 Thursday at Pittsburgh. The fourth exhibition is a farce anyway for everyone except the players trying to fill the last 10 spots on the roster -- why pretend otherwise?
3) Thomas Davis's speed has returned, which is great. I still worry about his durability after three ACL surgeries, but at least the linebacker has not come back as a below-average player who can't run.
4) Unless the question involves great religious role models in sports, there's no way Tim Tebow is the answer. Someone has to teach Tebow to stop rolling right as a lefty quarterback. His one interception couldn't have been a worse throw. The Jets have now failed to score a touchdown in their first three preseason games -- the first NFL team in 35 years to do that.
5) DeAngelo Williams just couldn't hold onto the ball Sunday. He had two fumbles in seven carries and also dropped a short pass (which was high) from Newton.
Before you start worrying about DeAngelo's ball security, however, remember that he has only fumbled six times in six years as a pro -- a phenomenal average of just one per season.
6) Sure would like to see the video that Jordan Gross and Ryan Kalil apparently made with a Charles "Big Money" Johnson impersonator. Al Michaels and Collinsworth referenced it on NBC Sunday night, saying Cam had told them about it and laughing so hard he could barely finish the story.
7) I am really not impressed with Panther wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu. Louis Murphy should be the third receiver behind Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell.
8) I was impressed with two Panther backups named Smith -- running back Armond Smith and safety Reggie Smith.
9) Thomas Keiser was rushing against the Jets' backups, yes, but he again was more effective than Johnson crashing in from the defensive end position. Keiser is tied for first in the NFL in the preseason stats with 3.5 sacks through three games.
10) Jets head coach Rex Ryan said after the game that former North Carolina defensive lineman Quinton Coples was getting winded and had a "woe is me" look on his face when the rest of the starters came out of the game but he had to stay in there. Coples did have a nice play on Cam Newton to force a lost fumble, but Ryan obviously doesn't like Coples' "motor" -- which was one of the raps on him coming out of Chapel Hill.
On the fumble Newton lost, I at first thought Cam made the wrong play not to go after the ball there. He simply walked away once it was batted out of his hand.
Then I realized two things: a) Newton acted as if he had heard a whistle, which Gross said afterward indeed was blown during the play, and b) Newton doesn't need to be in a pileup going for a loose ball in an exhibition anyway. If you watched the telecast, you saw the (unflagged) cheap shot he took earlier in the game while on the ground courtesy of the Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson.