In last week's optimist I wrote that I sincerely hoped I would be writing my article on a Monday after a win, and the football gods smiled upon us.
Was our win pretty? No, but when was the last time the Panthers had a pretty win?
Is there room for improvement? Absolutely, it's not time to rest on our laurels.
However, despite this the Carolina Panthers prevailed, and there is a distinct change in the air. Just as the heat of summer is finally being whisked away from the Carolinas it is being replaced with fresh air that leads to cooler heads, less virulent condemnation and dare I say, an air of confidence and optimism.
Getting the first win was vital to the Panthers 2009 hopes, and yesterday's game in Charlotte was a legitimate must win; a must win for the team, for the coaches and for the near future of the franchise. We can't escape that we played very, very poorly. Traditional areas of strength were weakness against Washington; conversely, areas of the team that have been mediocre thus far stepped up and made big plays. I don't know whether the bye week helped get the team in gear. None of us will know what was said behind those closed doors. What I do know, however, is yesterday's team played with more fire, more intensity than previous week's iteration. Sometimes that fire was a detriment to the team and players tried to make plays they should have given up on (see DeAngelo Williams' dancing into a fumble) but at least the players out there were giving it their all.
This is going to be a fairly optimistic Monday morning, but there are still some concerns for the team. Breakdown after the jump.
Thomas Davis- Extremely Optimistic: In 2009 is there anything Davis can't do? Jon Beason has ‘Beast' as his nickname, but we don't have a good one for Davis. If there is any player who deserves more love from the fan base it's this guy. Yesterday's performance was another example of how great he has been; 6 tackles, 2 for a loss, 1 sack, 1 safety and the key pass defended on the Redskins' last drive. Davis is loving life in Meeks' defense and it shows. He could be the best OLB in the NFL right now... he's playing that good.
Jon Beason- Extremely Optimistic: Beast promised he was going to have a big game on Sunday, and boy did he ever. 10 tackles, 1 sack. The anchor in the middle was everywhere in the game. Playing Hollis Thomas in the middle definitely helps Beason make plays on the ball carrier. Beason looks fired up as a leader also; on the safety play he was yelling, pleading to the end zone fans to make it loud and difficult for Washington. They obliged and we got the safety, great call from our leader.
Everette Brown- Extremely Optimistic: When the kid is on the field he flat our makes plays. I know people love to doubt trading the draft pick to get Brown, but there's no denying that when he's on the field our pass rush is an entirely different animal. Though his stats only show 1 tackle, 1 sack and 1 FF he was constantly in the backfield pressuring Jason Campbell when he was in the game. Why he's not starting opposite Peppers is beyond comprehesion.
Chris Harris- Extremely Optimistic: 7 tackles, but he does so much more. Harris raised the play of all of our secondary. Tackles were getting finished; he provided great pressure on blitzes. Harris did everything our secondary has been lacking in his absence. Great to have him back.
Ron Meeks- Extremely Optimistic: Yes, you read that right. How can we slight Meeks' defense at this point? The game plan has worked, but in the past players didn't finish plays. The defense choked the Redskins' offense with 5 sacks, countless QB pressures and forcing them to punt five times. We held Washington to under 200 yards total offense when they have averaged 345 yards in their first 3 games. It might not be pretty, but Meeks' system is letting players flourish, and when coupled with good pass rush it seems to have dominant potential.
Julius Peppers- Somewhat Optimistic: From his play yesterday alone Julius deserves to be in the extremely optimistic category... however, I can't ignore previous weeks so I remain cautiously optimistic. Amazing game by Pep yesterday, he had 2 sacks, 4 tackles and really should be credited with the safety. Peppers was a major factor yesterday, and it's so welcome to see him be a factor.
Jeff Davidson- Extremely Pessimistic: It doesn't take an elite NFL analyst to see that the Redskins have one major dominant force on defense, Albert Haynesworth. So, explain to me why running it at Haynesworth all day makes sense, especially when he has been shutting down opposing running backs in the middle? Yes, the offense line played poorly and DeAngelo Williams had a bad day, but the common thread in all this is Davidson. O-line alignments were messed up, Jake didn't get his plays fast enough and the offense looked lost for much of the game. When the best plays your offense is making are coming from audibles Jake called himself then you need to question the ability of your OC.
Tackles- Somewhat Pessimistic: Both Jordan Gross and Jeff Otah played like garbage yesterday. They'll get a break for now as I'm willing to shift some of the blame on Davidson... but there is no excuse for the tackles to play so poorly, especially when they have the ability of these two. The guards did what they could against Haynesworth and when J-Stew had success it was running off-guard. So, that's the only reason the entire o-line escape my ire, for now.
In the immortal words of Dr. Victor Frankenstein: "It's alive!" Yes folks, we're still kicking and still in this. It is most definitely an uphill battle but with games against Tampa, Buffalo and Arizona coming up we could definitely be 4-3 when we face New Orleans. Week 1,2 and 3 our special teams, d-line, secondary and QB let us down the most. In week 5 our o-line, RBs and play calling let us down. We have the potential to be a very scary, very dangerous team if all phases play up to their potential, and since each area has played to their potential at least once, there's no reason to believe we can't pull it all together. I think we're about to go on a tear folks and it's going to start with a dominating, choking performance against the anemic Buccaneers next week.
85% optimistic heading down to Tampa