The Panthers held a full-pads scrimmage with the Steelers last night in a game designed to show the league why moving to 18 games is a good thing. There wasn't a lot to write home about, as Fox held out the starters for most of the game.
But the reserves all played like they're fighting for a roster spot, and in several cases you could see why. When you're watching these sorts of game you may find yourself wondering how these guys made it into the league. With some of them it's painfully obvious that this is the closest they're ever going to get to playing on Sunday.
It's hard to watch, but sometimes you have to take one for the team, and be a fan no matter what. I watched the game from start to finish, although I was sorely tempted to turn it off after the half.
At the end I felt like we had put a collection of college players in Panther uniforms and sent them out there without a playbook. It wasn't pretty, but on the other hand it was football. There was beer and nachos, and bad football is better than no football.
So here are my random thoughts on what we saw last night. Have fun picking them apart, and add your own. We've got lots of speculating to do before cuts. :)
The staff has to cut 22 players by tomorrow. The defense made some decisions hard, but the offense made a lot more of them pretty easy.
But first, the defense. It looked great, and it's nice to feel like you're used to that considering the questions we had there early in the season.
Greg Hardy looks like a future starter and star, and Derek Landri looks like what we hoped Nick Hayden would become. Those guys are on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as being physical prototypes for their positions, but it's a testament to Ron Meeks that each goes 100% on every play until the whistle. I saw Hardy let up a little at the end of a play once, and it genuinely surprised me.
Williams is fast, but he's not a middle linebacker. We need Connor and Beason on the field to stop the power running game. The Steelers were just dominating us at the line all night--on both sides of the ball.
Which reminds me--someone tell Pouncey that the starters are going to be playing during the regular season, and they'll all remember that punk effort he made to take out Williams' knees. That's another argument against the pre-season, and not one we need to see demonstrated.
It looks like we have a big talent drop-off in our linebacker and secondary depth. Then again, Munnerlyn didn't travel and neither did Richard Marshall or C.J. Wilson. We were running with rookies and scrubs in the second quarter on, and it showed.
But all in all, I loved watching our speed. Even the fifth string waterboy looks fast on defense. And unless things change, that's going to be our saving grace this season.
The offense... ugh. It just looked awful, and as with the defense it's another "as usual" observation. Too bad it's an "as usual" on the bad side.
You have to wonder just how well Jeff Davidson has his unit prepared. Meeks isn't game planning, and the defense is turning in an incredible performance. Our offense, on the other hand, can't get anything going. It doesn't matter who's the quarterback, what line is playing, and who the running back is. We're not moving the ball. Other teams aren't game-planning, and yet they're scoring anyway. I can accept that excuse for a couple games, but at this point it's gotten ridiculous.
Maybe someone just needs to let Davidson stay home during preseason, and let the second string OC call the plays. They can't do much worse, can they? I'm hoping to see something very different next week, but one wide receiver can't make that much difference. Davidson is either the worlds biggest sandbagger or the most overrated coach in the NFC South.
I guess we know exactly what Kasay's range is this year.
Mike Goodson looks better than he did last year. If he continues on this path, we're going to have an interesting set of options next year when Williams' contract is up.
Dwayne Jarrett looks lost and tentative on running plays. He's probably got the best hands on the team, Smitty and the Tight Ends included, but there's so much more to the receiver position on this level. You have to block, you have to get separation, you have to be aware of the chains, and he doesn't show any of that. On physical tools alone he was worth the gamble of a second round pick, but at this point I wouldn't be surprised if the coaching staff decided to cut it's losses and let him be someone else's problem.
On the flip side, Brandon LaFell needs Jarrett's hands. He loves to lay a body on someone, and he runs from start to finish. I love seeing that, and based on his production I'm guessing that's why he is a favorite for the starting role. It's a tough choice--do you want the guy who can catch, or the guy who can play?
Is it too early to call Duke Robinson a never-was? He just doesn't look like he wants to play in the NFL.
Maybe it was the defense, but Armanti Edwards didn't look that effective in the wildcat (or mountain cat, or whatever cutesy name they have for it). His throws weren't bad, but his running won't scare anyone. The announcers suggested we ran it just to make the Giants prepare for it. I hope they're right.
Edwards did have a legitimate NFL moment last night, and it was as a receiver when he caught the ball and turned it upfield for a first down. I'm glad they're still using him, and think he'll do well someday, but I don't think it's going to be as a gimmick. He's going to be a legitimate receiver for us someday.
It was nice to see the scrub quarterbacks in extended action. Cantwell has the better arm, but Pike is a better quarterback. Keep the rookie, and teach him how to throw to both sides of the field.
David Gettis or Charley Martin? That's a tough one. Gettis does everything well, but isn't great at anything. Martin has been AWOL most of camp due to injury, but is quick and likes special teams. I think if Gettis gets more work in the slot he could develop into another Rickey Proehl, and I think Martin can contribute immediately. Maybe we cut Jarrett and keep both?
Thank God the preseason is over. I don't think I could take any more--this was worse than 2001.