Well, 0-4 isn't exactly the way the Panthers wanted to finish this preseason, but thankfully, preseason records mean absolutely nothing in regards to the regular season. Lest we all forget that the Lions went 4-0 last preseason and then promptly went 0-16 in the regular season. However, there are some trends and performances that we can look at to base our expectations on for the regular season:
Considering how well the offensive line played last season, I'm not all that concerned about them heading into this season. It is critical however that both our tackles stay healthy in order for us to make the playoffs. Keydrick Vincent looked awful in his limited action against the Steelers. Hopefully it was just a bad game for him, but it looked like he was absolutely perplexed by a 3-4 blitzing defense. On the other hand Duke Robinson really stood out above everybody else on the O-line against the Steelers and I think absolutely has the potential to eventually replace Vincent (maybe during the season).
Delhomme looks alright heading into the season and I actually expect a slight statistical improvement for him over last year. IMO however, this is his last year to prove to me that we can actually win a Super Bowl with him at the helm. I'm not saying we have to win a Super Bowl, but if he plays awful in the playoffs again or throughout the season, I'm done with him. I read a recent article by TMQ on ESPN that made a good point about Jake: the fact that his numbers were so mediocre on a team that passed the 2nd least in the NFL. Teams were stacking up against the run and he still had problems getting a QB rating above an 80. If it weren't for the best WR in the game, he'd be terrible. So consider the fact that in the one game (Cardinals playoff game) where we (for some unthinkable reason) asked him to pass more than usual and he was horrible. Now think about the fact that our defense will probably be worse than it was last year (due to injuries) and how there are going to be many more times where we'll need to pass to catch up. I'm nervous to say the least. I'm now convinced that Matt Moore is not the future of this team and I think we'd be just as well cutting him and giving Cantwell the spot. Cantwell is much more raw and shows just as much upside and less boneheaded throws than the more experienced Moore. McCown will be a serviceable backup but will not get us to the playoffs if we need him.
Deangelo is going to be more than ready for the regular season and I expect a season similar to his last year and perhaps better given Jonathan Stewart's health concerns. Speaking of, I am not confident at all that Stewart will be ready to play in the season opener. He barely practiced all preseason and didn't play in one single game. How can he be ready? I actually forsee this injury lingering all season forcing us to place him on IR eventually. I hope that's not the case, and I hope he gets better, but we'll see. Goodson is for real and was an absolute steal where we got him in the draft. He's got great speed and vision and the thing I love about him the most is his versatility. I really would like to see us use him in the passing game a lot, kind of like Maurice Jones Drew or Pierre Thomas is used. The toe tapper finger tip grab along the side line against the Ravens sealed it for me.
Steve Smith is going to be a beast again this season and Moose will perform about the same as he did last year. It seems however that his hands are getting worse with age as he has already dropped a couple this preseason and had quite a few big ones last season. I really love Kenneth Moore and I feel that the slot position really fits his skill set perfectly. He reminds me a lot of a Wes Welker type of WR who, despite not being extremely tall, or extremely fast, is very well balanced and has a knack for getting open and making plays. Dwayne Jarrett is coming along slowly but I truly feel that he could become a good replacement for Moose come next year. He's just so tall and my favorite thing about him is that he has excellent hands. I feel he could win a lot of jump balls and should be utilized like a Plaxico Burress type. He just doesn't have blazing speed unfortunately.
Ehh, it's really a toss-up. King can block but really doesn't wow anyone in the passing game. Barnidge has shown some flashes but is still fairly raw. I have been impressed with Rosario this preseason though, someone I was very down on following last season. I feel he has really worked on his blocking and he definitely has the skill set to be a good receiving TE. I really would like to see all three of these guys on the roster, but I would prefer to have one guy step up as the #1 option in blocking and passing.
It's really hard to gauge this defense because of how many starters have been out. There's obviously some question marks on our defensive line. Hayden had a very good game against the Steelers but I still feel he isn't consistently good enough to be a starter. Louis Leonard showed some promise late in the game and he definitely has the size we're looking for. I don't know if he showed enough to start opposite of Damione Lewis though. Favorite has shown flashes throughout the preseason and has at the very least earned a roster spot. But at this point I really have no clue who is going to start in Kemo's spot. I think both Charles Johnson and Everette Brown looked fairly good in the preseason and hopefully will be well utilized during the season. Brayton will probably start because of his play against the run, and Peppers will be his usual on again off again self.
I think both James Anderson and Jeremy Leman deserve roster spots based on their preseason performances. I also think Dan Connor will perform competently in Beason's place but there is a considerable drop off. Hopefully Thomas Davis is going to be game ready for Week 1, and Beason will be back as soon as possible, because our defense is going to suffer with them both off the field.
I thought Quinton Teal had a very good preseason and may be a better starter over the injured Godfrey who really hasn't shown much besides his horrible tackling skills. Gamble and most of the other corners looked pretty awful throughout the preseason but hopefully they'll step it up when the games really matter. I will say that Captain Munnerlyn really impressed me throughout. He's a pretty good tackler for a DB and while his hands may not be amazing, he does have good speed and athletic ability. I didn't get to see Sherrod Martin much at all but IMO I think Munnerlyn could definitely step in at the nickle or opposite Gamble if necessary.
Well, except for Kasay and maybe Baker, everyone else was pretty much awful. Both punt and kickoff return coverages were sloppy and it seemed that we muffed the ball every other opportunity when we were returning the ball. I mean, there were AT LEAST 4 muffed returns in the Steelers game alone. I honestly don't have a clue as to who is going to be returning kickoffs and punts for us this year. Kenneth Moore maybe? Who knows. They could all use a lot more practice at catching the ball. I've been calling for Danny Crossman to be let go for a couple years now, and the only thing that is keeping his job is Rhys Lloyd who mercifully gets a touchback every other time. Let's just say that based on our injuries on Defense and the awful play of our Special Teams in the preseason, I wouldn't touch the Panthers D/ST in fantasy football with a 10 foot pole.
Our starting offense is still pretty terrible on third down conversions, and a lot of that has to go to playcalling. On the whole though I think we'll score a good amount of points this year (as long as Delhomme doesn't implode). I really hope Meeks knows what he's doing with this defense but I am pretty nervous about playing a soft reactionary defense throughout the season. He has to keep in mind that he doesn't have Peyton Manning on the other side of the ball making his job easier.
All in all a pretty mediocre preseason, but thankfully, the record doesn't matter. I just hope we can get it all together come Game 1. In all honesty I expect our offense to be on par with last year's (barring injuries) but I forsee our defense giving up more points. We certainly have the talent to do what we did last year, we're just up against a much tougher schedule and we've already been bitten by the injury bug. We're going to need our defense to step up and our offensive line to hold strong if we want to make the playoffs again. Go Panthers!
(Sorry, this was written pretty quickly as I have to get ready for work. Hope y'all enjoy!)