As we take a break from our beloved Panthers I thought I would look at the team rankings and see where we stand after three weeks. Three weeks does not make a season and given we are 0-3 the team rankings are ugly as I'm sure you would expect. So let's take our medicine:
Total Yds/Game: 293 yds (26th)
Passing Yds: 192 (21st)
Rush yds: 101 (21st) Rush Yds/carry: 4.3 (12th)
Recep/Gm: 10.9 (16th)
Scoring: 12.3 (29th)
TD's: 4 (27th)
3rd Down %: 31% (26th)
Yds/Play: 4.7 (28th)
Time of Possession: 26 min/game (30th)
Penalty Yds: 125 (7th)
The TOP is surprising as I thought we had the ball more than that. It's not wonder our ‘bed but don't break' defense is suffering; they are on the field way too much. Obviously the rushing yards per game is hugely disappointing given that was supposed to be the strength of the team. Yet we are 12th in yards per carry at 4.3. Twelve (12) points a game? That makes us only better than the Raiders, Browns and Rams. Is that the kind of company we want to keep? The only other positive of than rush yards per carry is the penalty yardage is improved from last season. Now the defense:
Yds/game: 362 (21st)
Pass yds: 179 (8th)
Rush yds: 182 (29th)
Sacks: 4.0 (22nd)
Scoring: 29 pts/game (30th)
TD's: 11 (29th)
3rd Down Conv %: 42% (21st)
First I have to say the #8 Pass defense is misleading since when you give up 180 yards rushing per game teams prefer to run than throw. Otherwise there is absolutely nothing here to feel good about. Last but certainly least is Special teams:
Kick Off yds: 70.1 (7th)
Kick off Return yds: 21.6 (19th)
Opponent Kick Return yds: 28.3 (31st)
Touchbacks: 4 (8th)
Punting yds: 47.5/punt (6th)
Punt Net yds: 30.5 (32nd)
Punt Ret Yds: 10.4 (8th)
Other Team Stats:
Turnover Margin: -8 (32nd)
Our kickers are very impressive, TOP 10 in all cases. Too bad that advantage is completely negated by the fact our coverage units are horrible. How telling it is that we have the 6th best punter but are 32nd in net punt average? The kick off coverage is just as bad coming at 31st.
It's not all bad in this area though, rookie Captain Munnerlyn is 8th in punt returns at 10.4 yds per return though I'd like to see him take a few less fair catches.
In summary looking at the stats it is all ‘doom & gloom' but I do see a silver lining. Many of these stats are simply the results of failures in other areas. For example the Time of Possession is simply the result of the offense to convert 3rd downs. I agree with John Fox that things can be cleaned up if we focus on a few items.
The most obvious one is the turnovers. If the offense plays turnover-free ball that would improve the Panthers scoring opportunities. I still maintain the interceptions have killed our chances of winning in all three games though I'm not saying it's the sole reason for the 0-3 start.
Another is improving the kick coverage. Asking the defense to protect short fields is a losing proposition. It runs contrary to our defensive philosophy and simply leads to more red zone opportunities for the opponent.
The third one is to run the ball more on offense. I know it's a no-brainer and I've heard the Panthers excuses about the game dictating more passes. I'm not buying it since it's the one positive statistic involving our offense. The Panthers need to get back to the run-first mentality and maybe work on adding some more misdirection plays in case teams continue to pressure the middle of the line.
If the Panthers protect the ball, run the ball more and cover their kicks at least half-ass they should be able to turn things around. I fully expect to be 3-3 in four weeks. I also think as we get into the later half of the schedule it may not turn out to be as difficult as we envisioned. There are several teams that don't look as tough as we assumed in the offseason...but I'll leave that topic for my next post!