Greg Olsen will be vital to the Panthers passing game on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of the News and Observer)
Sweaty palms? Check... Restless legs? Check... Nervous twitches? Check
This means one of two things: Either the NFL season is finally getting underway, or I'm having a heart attack... but I'm pretty sure it's the former. I have a palpable excitement that we're finally going to get to see the new look Carolina Panthers take the field in some form of competition on Saturday. Sure, it's only pre-season, but I've always felt that you can learn a lot about a team based on how they perform in these first four games. August won't tell you if your team will be hoisting the Lombardi in February, but it will tell you if you have the depth needed to endure a long NFL season.
This week Jaxon and I are breaking down the Panthers v. Giants game. I'm taking a look today at the Panthers' offense and how it might fair against the stout Giants D, while Jaxon will look at the other side of the coin later.
X- Factor- Panthers QBs vs. Giants pass rush
This is far and away the most intriguing part of the game for Carolina Panthers fans. Both Jimmy Clausen and Cam Newton are proverbial babes in the woods when it comes to dealing with NFL caliber pass rushes. Last season Jimmy Clausen had a propensity to roll out of the pocket and throw the ball away whenever any sign of pressure presented itself. Meanwhile, Cam Newton may have innate pocket presence, but at this level it's a whole new world. Both have made strides in training camp, but it will be interesting to see how they deal with live fire.
The Giants have a lot of talent at their DE position with a group as good as any in the NFL. Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul are all extremely dangerous pass rushers and will give the young QBs headaches. Hopefully the offensive line will hold strong, but this will be a difficult match-up.
More after the jump
Panthers run offense vs. Giants run defense
This is an area that Panthers should excel in. With both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart healthy and ready to go we should see a quite potent rushing attack with new TE Ben Hartsock helping to push them to the second level.
While I don't want to go so far as to say New York are 'reeling' they will be hurting due to the loss of NT Barry Cofield. The G-men will rely heavily on 2nd year DT Linval Joseph and rookie Marvin Austin to help fill the gap. When you couple this with a less that stellar group of New York linebackers this should be an area where the Panthers can make some big gains.
Panthers pass offense vs. Giants pass defense
I have a feeling for Carolina the pass game will turn into the Greg Olsen show. Since acquiring the veteran TE the coaching staff has been using him to great effect in camp, and lining him up at a variety of positions. This will help ease both Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen into the game, but other than that the Panthers could have a tough day moving the ball through the air on Saturday. The primary reason for this is Steve Smith, who has been ruled out of the game while he nurses the stitches he received earlier this week on his finger. David Gettis was in pain last night also, and could also miss the game resulting in Carolina having to piece a WR corps together that will likely feature Armanti Edwards and Legedu Naanee heavily.
The Giants aren't without injury either as they will be coping with the loss of 1st round pick CB Prince Amukumara due to a broken foot. The NYG needed more help in their secondary which is why they drafted the Nebraska CB, but in the end their remaining safeties and corners will likely be too much for a Panthers passing offense that could be missing it's #1 and #2 receivers.
Unfortunately, we won't probably get a really good feeling for Rob Chudzinski's offense this game. A spate of injuries combined with a staff who wont likely show all their cards this early will result in a game where the Panthers will likely run the ball more than they will in the 2011 season, while also leaning heavily on the TE position to make up for the lack of receiving threats on the outside.
For fans, this will be about examining the minutia of the game. Pay really close attention to Cam Newton's every move under center; he will be asked to communicate the plays, manage the huddle, call audibles, take snaps under center and run the offense. At times Newton has been inconsistent in training camp, which is to be expected of a 1st year player, however, he has always been a guy who steps up when the lights are on. If Cam manages this first test we should be in for a treat when the real football begins in a month.