Carolina Panthers' Monday Morning Optimist- 11/29/10

CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 28: Running back Jonathan Stewart #28 of the Carolina Panthers runs by defensive back Sheldon Brown #24 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 28 2010 in Cleveland Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Good morning Panther faithful and welcome to the MMO. Five seconds, one kick and 42 yards- that's all that stood between the Carolina Panthers and victory on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. In the end though not even two costly Jake Delhomme interceptions including on pick-six was enough to dig the Panthers out of the early 21-7 rut they found themselves in.

I think many people had a lot of their hopes hanging on yesterday's game judging by the disappointment seen across the open thread. It's almost as if the inevitability of the loss against Baltimore with Brian St. Pierre led to rampant faith that Jimmy Clausen would lead Carolina to victory simultaneously proving that he was 'the guy' while also quietly the ever growing murmurs that perhaps Andrew Luck is in the cards for Carolina.

Sadly, neither occurred and as it stands the Panthers are 1-10. Realistically there are two games out of the Panthers remaining five that are 'winnable' (Seattle and Arizona), but we have five more opportunities to evaluate Jimmy Clausen and the young talent on this team. 

So let's look at the good in Carolina's loss to Cleveland

After the jump...

I know the fashion immediately following the game is to blame John Kasay alone for the Panthers' loss, but to quote Jon Beason:

"It doesn't come down to that play. I look at myself first, and there were some plays out there where I could have definitely changed the outcome."

Beast is right, and perhaps we've become too accustomed to being bailed out by the last original Panther. Heading into Sunday's game John Kasay was a career 111-174 from beyond 40 yards, that represents 75.5% on Sunday Kasay was asked to make 5 such kicks and he finished 3/5; granted, that's 60% but in the end it was the offense who was poor enough to need 5 such FGs from Kasay.

We're not talking about consistently relying on chip shots, we're talking about needing the kicker to make up for offensive ineptitude. Of the 11 drives the Panthers started only five drives managed to yield 30 yards or more. The other six drives?

1 yard

-4 yards 

7 yards

18 yards

4 yards

15 yards

Those six drives are the Panthers lost the game in my mind, not the last second miss by Kasay. To those saying 'Kasay failed to do his job twice' what did the offense do on these six occasions to do their job? In the end it was the same as any of the Panthers' ten losses this year... a complete failing, not just one phases'.

I said when Matt Moore went on IR that I would track Jimmy Clausen's development to see if he was developing, and really there's not much to say about Sunday's performance. While he did take some steps forward (more baby steps like last time) the costly late interception really put the Carolina Panthers behind the 8-ball. There are things I love about Jimmy Clausen's game- his ability to find his outlets, his accuracy on short-intermediate routes, but there are also things I'm not seeing; he still isn't able to stretch the field with regularity, and he's also holding onto the ball a touch too long on deep plays resulting in some avoidable sacks. That being said, Clausen seems to have now corrected his propensity to fumble the snap, and his penchant for throwing the ball into opposing linemen... and those are two major steps forward.

We have another five starts to evaluate Clausen as we hurtle towards the eventuality of having to make the premature choice of Clausen or Luck in terms of whether the team believes they have their QB of the future already on the roster, or whether they need to look externally. Until the Panthers are either out of the running for the #1 overall pick, or Clausen puts forth some amazing performances it looks like our fan base will be locked in 'Hatfield and McCoy-esque' arguments until the season concludes.

Now, on to the ratings.

 

Optimistic

 

Jonathan Stewart- Extremely Optimistic: It was really great to see J-Stew come out and play well. I admit, I was slightly nervous regarding the tentative nature he'd been playing in 2010, but today proved (for whatever reason) that Stewart is a-okay. Maybe he truly did have an undisclosed injury he was fighting, but a 12 carry, 98 yard performance is exceptional.

 

Mike Goodson- Extremely Optimistic: Granted, Goodie didn't break 100 yards this week rushing... but a 136 all purpose yard performance with one TD is very impressive. What stood out the most was Goodson's tenacity, especially on 3rd and 10 on the Panthers 16 where Goodson took a short pass from Clausen that should have gone for 8 yards at best and willed it into a 32 yard gain.

 

Captain Munnerlyn- Extremely Optimistic: While Clausen will need to make his case against possibly drafting Andrew Luck so must Captain Munnerlyn make a case that he can fill in with the eventual departure of Richard Marshall. Along with a beautiful INT where the good Captain broke on the ball at the perfect time for a TD he added another 6 tackles and a 32 yard punt return. Just a stellar game from him.

 

Brandon LaFell- Extremely Optimistic: Sometimes it isn't always how much you catch the ball, but when you catch the ball- and yesterday Brandon LaFell typified this. His catch to set up Kasay's final FG attempt was a thing of beauty and LaFell is proving his worth in more ways the just his receiving being a very impressive blocker in the run game.

 

Jon Beason- Somewhat Optimsitic: Beason seems to be finding his sea legs again at MLB and is slowly returning to form. It's nice to see as he's really better suited to the position it just looked like he was out of place at times the last couple of weeks. 

 

James Anderson- Somewhat Optimistic: 10 tackles = par for the course in his solid year.

 

Sherrod Martin- Somewhat Optimistic: 10 tackles today and a solid game. Martin is progressing at the rate Godfrey is regressing.

 

Charles Johnson- Somewhat Optimistic: 5.5 sacks now on the season and he's starting to make an impact. Imagine if we had good defensive tackles.

 

Pessimistic

 

Playcalling- Extremely Pessimistic: Yet again the offensive play calling is a major factor in a loss. My brain can't even compute that we ran a 3rd and long draw play to Dante Rosario... seriously... my brain can't comprehend it.

 

Run defense- Extremely Pessimistic- Not really one player to single out, but rather a collective. Peyton Hillis made a mockery of the Panthers with a 131 yard, 3 TD performance as he steamrolled about everyone who got in his way.

 

Charles Godfrey-  Somewhat Pessimistic: Charles is the name, arm tackling is the game. In the most literal sense of the word the safety's job is to be the safety valve, the last line of defense... sadly Godfrey left the floodgate open for much of Sunday's game. He did have a couple of nice plays, but it wasn't enough to offset the bad ones.

 

David Gettis- Somewhat Pessimistic: Gettis wasn't able to lose his man the entire day and had some lackluster kick returns. This isn't a long term indictment... he just wasn't a factor on Sunday.

 

John Kasay- Somewhat Pessimistic: Though I'm not ready to hang my hat on Kasay as 'the reason' the Panthers lost he still missed two FGs he normally hits.

 

Overall Outlook

To quote John Fox: "It is what it is". The Carolina Panthers are playing out the season looking for player growth and maybe a little dignity. The remainder of the season wont be boring though because if the Panthers win we can talk about player development, and if they lose we can continue to weigh the merits of Andrew Luck. Then we get to follow that with talks about new coaches, which free agents will be retained and more! Never a dull moment.

Oooh... but it could be fun next week. Imagine if the Seahawks end up signing Dwayne Jarrett! We can watch him be inactive on a different sideline! Let me re-iterate... next  Sunday's game is winnable.

 

30% optimistic heading to Seattle to face the Seahawks

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