Good morning Panther faithful and welcome to the Monday Morning Optimist. How 'bout that defense? I don't think enough good things can be said about the quality, caliber and power of the Carolina Panthers' defense thus far. As a defense on Saturday night here's what the Panthers did:
Allowed just 217 total yards
Sacked the QB seven times
Forced two fumbles
Intercepted two passes
There's no magic formula to what the Panthers are doing on defense. No exotic blitz packages, no weird schemes, they're just playing faster than stronger than their opponents- daring them to try and get yardage and thus far it hasn't worked for any of the three teams faced. It remains to be seen if they can keep up this pace all year, but it's a very, very promising sight from the phase of the game the fan base thought could be a weakness.
The offense on the other hand still looks a little lost without Steve Smith, Jonathan Stewart and Jeff Otah. Hopefully this is all that's needed. While the offense made clear strides against the Titans it's still clear that this is the weaker of the two major phases.
Lots of great performances in the 15-7 win, so let's break it down...
After the jump
This week's focus for the in depth look goes to Everette Brown the sophomore DE who was starting to garner attention from a section of the fan base wondering if he was going to be a bust given the price we paid to draft him (1st round pick). We heard reports before the OTAs that Brown had bulked up to the tune of 15 lbs while still looking just as explosive. Your's truly called him several months back 'a younger, more inexperienced Dwight Freeney' another smaller DE who Ron Meeks turned into a pass rushing monster. It now appears that Brown is 'getting it' and I would like to table this nickname for your approval: UPS- Unbelievable. Panther. Sack machine.... what can Brown do for you?
Thus far in the last two games as a starter Brown has amassed 7 tackles, 3 sacks and 1 forced fumble. These came working against D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Michael Roos, both highly respected LT's. On the field it looks like Brown is moving at 100% and his opposing tackle I moving at 75%; he's so quick he's getting around the edge before the LT has time to rotate and set. Everette Brown is poised for a monster season and with Greg Hardy continuing to be disruptive it appears the Panthers will be set at DE for a long time.
Much like last week the optimistic rankings will be heavily dominated by the defense. There are so many guys who deserve kudos, but not enough time to give everyone their props. So I'm going to concentrate on the guys who made the biggest impact on Saturday.
Everette Brown- Extremely Optimistic: Heading this category again for the second straight week. For all the reasons mentioned above and more he looks like a very special player.
Charles Johnson- Extremely Optimistic: Johnson was the guy I believed was most poised for a breakout this season. With Tyler Brayton injured he's not working from his natural blind side spot, but regardless he was impressive on Saturday with four tackles and two sacks.
Eric Moore- Extremely Optimistic: Talk about a guy holding on to the NFL by a thread and making the most of his chance. Rather than retiring like some journeyman players would do Moore is out there fighting tooth and nail for a shot... and it looks like he's going to get it. One sack and one forced fumble last night.
Jon Beason- Extremely Optimistic: He's not in his natural position and he's still making plays. Beason led the Panthers in tackles with five and helped shut down Chris Johnson.
Blitzing Defensive Backs- Extremely Optimistic: I loved how Meeks utilized safety and corner blitzes on Saturday night. Richard Marshall and Charles Godfrey both got sacks against the Titans, but on numerous more plays there was a DB in the backfield harrassing the quarterback. It's a really nice way to use our speed.
Mike Goodson- Extremely Optimistic: Prior to Saturday's game I thought Goodson was right on the cusp of possibly being cut. I'm glad he game out and showed he can be effective on Saturday. He ran the ball well, caught out of the backfield with poise and got the Panthers their only TD on a 91 yard KR.
Brian Witherspoon- Extremely Optimistic: One tackle, two interceptions, one punt return = Extremely optimistic.
Dan Connor- Somewhat Optimistic: Only had three tackles solo and one assisted, but that doesn't really matter. Connor is being asked to fill the shoes of Jon Beason in the middle, hands down the toughest role to fill and he's doing so admirably. People aren't getting past him and he's showing why he's the all time leader in tackles at 'Linebacker U'.
Matt Moore- Somewhat Optimistic: I rated Moore's 1st half and 'extremely pessimistic' and his 3rd quarter as 'extremely optimistic' so this is me splitting the difference. Moore had both brilliant and terrible moments on Saturday night, the former being a beautiful 24 yard strike to Dante Rosario, the latter being a mess of a pass play resulting in a long bomb into triple coverage that was lucky not to be picked off. Moore settled down a lot after half time and played the way we know he can. Once bitten, twice shy and I'd be lying if I didn't admit I'm slightly concerned Moore will have a 'good Matt, bad Matt' dichotomy much like Jake Delhomme did.
Jimmy Clausen- Somewhat Optimistic: We didn't see a lot of Jimmy Clausen, but that was to be expected. This was Matt Moore's game and Thursday night's game will be Clausen's. We saw accurate passes, good zip on the ball and poise in the pocket. We just didn't see a lot of it thanks to both the game clock and an offensive line who had itchy trigger fingers.
Trent Guy- Somewhat Optimistic: Showed that he can be a part of this team having two good punt returns and one good reception.
Brandon LaFell- Somewhat Optimistic: Needs to wok on his hands more, but that one handed circus catch was too good not to recognize.
Armanti Edwards- Somewhat Optimistic: What a difference a week makes. They should concentrate solely on his receiving and forget about the punt returns for now.
Dwayne Jarrett- Extremely Pessimistic: I think it's safe to say his future is on life support right now. Against the Titans he was a starter in name only. When a player is barely featured in game three they're either injured or about to be a casualty of a cut. He hasn't proven himself enough to get the job and with promising guys like Wallace Wright (pending injury evaluation), Brandon LaFell, Armanti Edwards, Trent Guy and David Gettis who all had good games it's tough to justify continuing the experiment any longer.
Marcus Hudson- Somewhat Pessimistic: He had a good performance afterwards, but being burnt that badly by a TE for a touchdown was ugly.
I'm still willing to give the offense the benefit of the doubt. When Steve Smith and Jonathan Stewart are reinserted into the lineup I think you'll see a much more fluid and effective offense. Word is the Steelers will be played Ben Roethlisberger extensively in game four to get him as much plying time as possible before he starts his suspension, so it will be a great opportunity to see the 2nd team defense step up.
90% Optimistic heading to Pittsburgh