Friday, August 22, 2014
You could name a lot more than five in this one, but here are a few (check out the comments below, too, as they seem almost evenly split between "The sky is falling" and the "It's only preseason" camps):
1) No pass rush. The Panthers led the NFL with 60 sacks last season and there has been some talk about whether they could break the NFL overall record (72). Not like this -- Tom Brady's uniform never got dirty, and no Patriot quarterback came close to getting sacked. This team is predicated on getting to the passer, first and foremost -- it is why GM Dave Gettleman has spent so many draft picks and so much money on the D-line. It has absolutely got to do better, starting Thursday at Pittsburgh.
2) Rushing game. One of Panther coach Ron Rivera's favorite stats is that in 15 of 16 games last season Carolina rushed for at least 100 yards. Not this time: Carolina ran for only 63. There were hardly any holes, and the running backs didn't do much, either. No run was for more than eight yards. "Double Trouble" was no trouble, with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combining for nine carries for 20 yards.
3) Cam's back. Newton suffered a hairline fracture in a rib, which will sideline him for the final exhibition vs. Pittsburgh and puts his Week 1 status at least in doubt. The last thing Newton needs is another nagging injury to join his problematic ankle, but now he's got one after getting kneed to the back while going down trying to avoid getting hurt (Newton must learn to slide). That he got sacked three times in this game (see above pic) and pressured a lot more wasn't helpful, either. Newton ends the exhibition season with no TD passes and five sacks. Here's more of my thoughts on his injury in the column that was published in Monday's newspaper.
4) Julian Edelman. He made every Panther defensive back look silly at one time or another, and a lot of their special-teamers, too. Edelman caught all eight passes thrown toward him for 99 yards and returned two punts for 51 more. And he's not close to the best receiver the Panthers will face this season. And the Panthers better hope middle linebacker Luke Kuechly stays healthy (he has a thumb injury that won't keep him from playing for now), because when he was out the Pats ran roughshod over Carolina and made second-year linebacker A.J. Klein look silly on a wheel route that turned into a 40-yard TD.
5) The offense in general. There were a lot of things going wrong here, which is why Carolina didn't score until the final two minutes when the score was 30-0 and third-stringer Joe Webb was in the game. Other than rookie Kelvin Benjamin, it's hard to point to a bright spot. But I worry most about the Panthers' offensive line, which looked half-baked in this one. Webb will get a lot of playing time Thursday vs. Pittsburgh, and it's now quite likely he's going to make the team since the Panthers can't go into the season with 2 QBs with Newton banged up like he is.
Posted by Scott Fowler at 11:46 PM