We are half way through the 2011 season so it's only appropriate we review our 1st half performance as compared to last year as well as to our expectations. This is a three part series I will complete over the bye week looking at each phase of the game. You might expect I would start with the offense since it's obviously the most improved or the defense because of its obvious weaknesses. Instead I'm starting with Special Teams because I have a bug up my arse about it at the moment.
Before I get to that though, I want to say that were it counts the are 2-6, a measly one game improvement from the miserable 2010 season. Yet I'm the first guy to admit it feels way better. We have hope once again in Carolina. This in spite of the fact that our biggest reason for hope has also been a leading reason we are 2-6. If you look at the losses four of them were by margins less than the points given the opponent on QB turnovers, INTs & fumbles. I'm not saying this to diss on Newton at all, he's a rookie and bound to make mistakes and I have no beef with him at all.
I do have a beef with special teams though and I admit I'm still a little raw about the most recent loss. Special teams began and ended that loss with putrid plays. On the opening kickoff they give up a long return to the Panthers 27 yard line. Then of course it ends on the hooked kick by Mare. It happens, I know...but when it's his first last second game
winning tying attempt in electric blue you kind of hope your shiny new kicker makes it.
So are the Panthers special teams units as bad as I suspect? I'll look three different football stats websites to paint the picture and let you decide.
Football Outsiders Special Teams Stats- FO uses five different metrics to compute an overall ranking to measure special teams: (metric, NFL rank)
1 - field goals/extra points - 27th
2 - kickoff return coverage - 25th
3 - kick returns - 30th
4 - punt coverage - 29th
5 - punt returns - 31st
Overall - 31st in the NFL
Ouch that is ugly...
We will also look at NFL.com stats, the overall analysis and a fan poll...after the jump...
Kick Return AVG: 21.0 yd avg, 29th in the NFL
Punt Return AVG: 5.5 yd avg, 29th
Kick return coverage: 28.3 yd avg, 26th
Punt coverage: 32.4 net avg, 32nd
FG Percent: 22nd, 81% (13 of 16)
Doesn't shine a better light does it?
So overall though we might want to point at certain individuals for their hand in the poor special teams play, whether it PR Armanti Edwards, KR Keoloha Pilares or K Olindo Mare the fact is the Panthers are in the bottom 25% of the league...in every category!
therefore the problem lies with the coaches and the general manager. I tend to put about 33% of the blame on the players, 33% on the GM and 33% on the ST coaches. In the end though its ST coach Brian Murphy who should be worried. He's apparently has not adjusted well to the rule changes on kick offs such as no three man wedges on returns and the added five yards on kick offs.
I think no matter how this unit fares in the second half of 2011 Murphy will probably get a pass this season with Marty Hurney focused on adding experienced special teams talent to the roster in the off season. So in other words, I will continue to keep the bar low for special teams and simply hope they play well enough to not lose the game for us.