Good morning Panther faithful, and welcome back to the Monday Morning Optimist. If you're new to CSR, or forgotten the basic gist of what I do here, basically I take apart each Carolina Panthers' game to look at those players who stood out for good or bad reasons on Sunday's (or in this case, Saturday's) game. If someone is rated poorly it's no long term condemnation of their abilities as a player, just a way to look at them this week in isolation and hoping they'll improve.
There really wasn't much bad in Saturday night's game... and wow, is that refreshing. It's been a long time since I could pencil most of our players in the 'optimistic' column, but that's what happened in the preseason opener. Simply put, the Carolina Panthers got the job done, they did in every phase of the game and it was astonishing given they were missing ten starters, including defensive captain Jon Beason and #1 WR Steve Smith.
More after the jump
It's hard to imagine that a player who catches 3 passes for 58 yards and a TD would be 'under the radar' but that's exactly what happened for TE Greg Olsen who failed to really move the needed for fans outside of CSR. Granted, this was because there were far bigger storylines between the QB situation and local favorite Armanti Edwards breaking out, but what he saw on Saturday was how big a threat Olsen will be in this offense. In 2007 Kellen Winslow Jr. had 1,100 yards receiving in Rob Chudzinski's offense, and there's no reason to think Olsen can't have a bigger impact for the Panthers in 2011, because... well, he's a better player than Winslow.
Also, a serious shout-out needs to go to the Carolina Panthers secondary who performed brilliantly considering they were without both Chris Gamble and Captain Munnerlyn. Ron Meeks' unit allowed only 217 yards through the air, and helped hold Eli Manning to 39 yards passing. Given we were seeing the 3rd, 4th and 5th options at the position they look deep, motivated and talented.
Lets move on to the individual rankings.
Greg Olsen- Extremely Optimistic As I said above, he did get overlooked to a degree, but it's hard to understate just how well he played on Saturday. While he only had three receptions, you could see the Giants were looking for him on every down and making sure they had an answer, this is one of his major benefits, he brings a 'fear factor' to the offense.
Thomas Williams- Extremely Optimistic This is a guy who got very little play from any outlet over the past few weeks, but with Jon Beason and Dan Connor out due to injury he had some time to impress the coaching staff, and impress them he did. On Saturday he showed fans why the coaching staff likes the young LB out of USC as he finished with 7 tackles, 1 sack and another QB hit. He's an extremely fast LB who can be used in numerous blitzing situations and could find his way on this team.
Armanti Edwards- Extremely Optimistic I was struggling with what to rate AE after the pass that was stripped from him, but in the end it was hard to move him from this spot. Edwards' two punt returns really sparked the offense and have them a short(er) field to work in. He also did an excellent job carving up the cover two zone for his deep reception from Cam Newton.
Jimmy Clausen- Somewhat Optimistic Without the INT he would have been in the top level here. Sure, the INT wasn't all his fault, but he still chose to throw a pass when DeAngelo Williams wasn't ready for it, even if it was Williams' fault he wasn't ready. However, Jimmy looks much more comfortable in the new offense and has made strides this off-season. It was unfair of the Charlotte crowd to boo him as much as they did, even if they were excited for Cam. Jimmy just needs a change of scenery and a new opportunity, but the Panthers will wait to see if they can get decent compensation for him.
Cam Newton- Somewhat Optimistic Teetering on brilliant so many times was Cam Newton who looked like a seasoned veteran under center in his first NFL action. He's definitely not the perfect QB right now, and he has things to work on, but he's so much further along that I ever thought he would be at this juncture. What's exciting about that, is that it couldn't/wouldn't have happened without hard work, which quickly dispels the notion that he was going to be a lazy QB like Jamarcus Russell.
Robert McClain- Somewhat Optimistic Given the unenviable role of playing #1 CB early, Robert McClain really proved himself in Saturday's game. He did a very solid job shutting down Mario Manningham, and while he faded later in the game he did a lot early to set himself apart.
Sione Fua- Somewhat Optimistic Don't let the lack of stats fool you, Fua was a difference maker on defense. He did exactly what's required of the NT positon: eat up space, let others make the plays. If only he was able to get down-field a little faster and finalize his near sack of Eli Manning.
Jordan Gross- Extremely Pessimistic Like I said earlier, this is just a one game rating, but Gross was pretty bad tonight. The announce team tried to sugar coat it, but Jason Pierre-Paul dominated Gross for almost the entire time the 1st team was in. I expect this is just a little rust that needs to be shaken off, and Pierre-Paul is an extremely athletic DE, but still he could have played better.
Duke Robinson- Somewhat Pessimistic At this point it seems like I'm picking on Duke, but he's just never good when he finally sees the field. Mediocre blocking followed with a false start land him here this week.
Mike Goodson- Somewhat Pessimistic Begrudgingly I have to but down Mike Goodson here. He put the ball on the ground twice tonight, and this is still an ongoing problem with him. When Goodson is in the open field he holds the ball like a loaf of bread. If he is to play a role in 2011 he'll need to hold onto the rock.
What's not to like? Sure, there were a lot of areas for improvement, but nothing that getting back those 10 starters wont fix. For now I'm as excited as I can be about this football team and the future of the Carolina Panthers. I hope you all are too.
100% optimistic heading into pre-season game two.