The first home game, preseason or otherwise is an exciting time for fans. It brings the promise of seeing ‘their team' in ‘their house' for the first time and getting to witness new rookies and free agent signings experience a home crowd for the first time. Yours truly will be at the game with the wife and a couple of friends so sadly I wont be able to enjoy the open thread with everyone, nevertheless this proves to be another fascinating preseason game.
Both sides have something to prove in this contest. The Panthers could have, and should have done much better in several areas against the Baltimore Ravens, but one must wonder how much different last Thursday's playbook was given both the Ravens and the Panthers were weary of tipping their hand too much to their future regular season opponents. I view the Baltimore game as the ‘warm-up to the warm-up' just because we didn't really see the true Panthers and I feel that this week, without fear of retribution we'll really get to see how the Panthers look. Conversely, the New York Jets are coming off a loss to the New York Giants, let down by their backups who were ultimately overwhelmed by the Giants' backups. For the Jets they will be playing a lot of guys who are going to be going at full speed to try and prove to the coaching staff that they deserve a roster spot.
While doing my ordinary pre-post research there was something that jumped out at me, just how similar the 2010 Carolina Panthers are to the 2009 New York Jets. Bear with me for a second while I argue my case and tell me at the end that it's not eerily similar:
- 2008 Jets went 9-7, 2009 Panthers went 8-8
- Both had an incumbent QB who went to college in Oregon (Kellen Clemens v. Matt Moore)
- Both drafted a QB early in their respective draft, but neither was considered to start pre-season (Sanchez v. Clausen)
- Neither team had an impressive receiving corps
- Both had 1,000 yard running backs (Thomas Jones v. Williams/Stewart
- Neither team had impressive safeties, but good cornerbacks
- Both had an excellent offensive line
- Both were connected to Bill Cowher in a possible coaching change scenario
So, obviously this means the Panthers are going to go 9-7 and make the NFC Championship right? Not quite, but this does show us that the formula the Panthers have used to build a team can prove successful. Obviously we don't have a Darrelle Revis on our roster, nor does it seem likely we'll make a blockbuster mid season trade to land a big name receiver (Braylon Edwards); regardless it's this method of team building to emphasize the run and trenches that will carry the Panthers through the 2010 season regardless of record.
Panthers pass offense v. Jets pass defense
I'm quite disappointed that Darrelle Revis won't be playing in Saturday's game. Without Steve Smith on the field it would have been an excellent yardstick to see how Dwayne Jarrett and Brandon LaFell measured up against the league's best corner... but sadly we won't get that opportunity.
Apart from Revis the Jets still have one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, even though their backups were burnt by Giants' UDFA Victor Cruz. If anything this will fuel the fire and we'll see the Jets backups looking to take someone's head off. So, provided the Panthers' offense line can remember how to block someone without holding we should get a really good look at the abilities of Matt Moore and the wide receivers with the first team.
Panthers run offense v. Jets run defense
Jonathan Stewart may have been taken off the PUP, but I find it unlikely we'll see him Saturday. Better to handle him with kid gloves than put him back on the field too early. DeAngelo should get some good time in, but will likely be limited to between 7-12 carries, and we'll see a lot of Tyrell Sutton from that point on. I would like to see the Panthers use Tony Fiametta more this weekend in short yardage situations; we know Fiametta can block, we know he can catch, but to fill that final facet of his game that Brad Hoover did so well we'll need to see if Fiametta can get the hard yards when needed.
On the other side of the ball there wasn't a whole lot of rushing going on either way in the NY v. NY game. The Jets stopped allowed Brandon Jacobs to get a TD, but he only registered 2 yards on 4 carries. The Ravens learnt early that if you give DeAngelo Williams an inch he'll take a mile so it should be a very interesting matchup.
Jets pass offense v. Panthers pass defense
Last week the Panthers' first team pass defense was utterly atrocious. Blown assignments, bad zone coverage... ultimately they bent and broke and the Panthers can not handle that performance when it counts. Mark Sanchez and the 1st string offense were one of the standouts for the Jets in their 1st game... sure, the stats show he had an interception, but realistically it was a lot like Jimmy Clausen's where it wasn't really his fault.
If there's one area the Jets improved in a lot in the last year it has been their receiving corps now led by Santonio Holmes. The Panthers secondary better be ready for a strong passing attack with similar strengths and weaknesses as Baltimore's which they saw last week. I would like to see more plays being made from the safeties in Saturday's game.
Jets run offense v. Panthers run defense
The Panthers allowed just 2.25 yards per carry vs. Baltimore, but that was without Ray Rice having a single rushing attempt. The Jets will likely get more work for Shonn Greene who had over 5 yards per carry against the Giants, so again this is a good yardstick to measure against. That being said, if we see over 10 carries from Greene I'll be surprised as the Jets will make sure rookie Joe McKnight gets a lot of carries as they try and establish whether he can be an effective backup in 2010.
We're not 100% sure right now which position Jon Beason will be playing on Saturday, but given that he has been practicing at MLB this week it seems fairly safe to assume we'll see him in the middle v. New York. The fact the Panthers' DL and backups helped to allow just 2.25 ypc is promising, and we should assume they will be better with Beason back in the middle.
Ugh... they're looking better, only by a little but better nonetheless. I can't remember a team having so many promising players at their natural position populating special teams, but looking as average as a whole. Perhaps Aaron Francisco will sure up the ST, but perhaps the biggest concern is the lack of a kicker who can get touchbacks. The justification for letting Rhys Lloyd leave for Minnesota was the promise we would get a younger, cheaper kicker in Todd Carter who could fill the same role. Against Baltimore the Panthers didn't register a single touchback and allowed 22.5 yards a return- they need to get better.
The Jets were good against the Giants allowing 18 yards per return and having four of their 5 kickoffs landing in the end zone with one going for a touchback.
I don't make predictions for preseason games, really there's no point without knowing who will play, how long they will play or who they will play against. All we can hope for is more promising play from the QBs, improvement by the WRs and the offensive line regaining their footing.