Carolina Panthers Monday Morning Optimist- 8/20/11 (Saturday Edition)

Good morning Panther faithful! I feel a little like Marty McFly right now because last night's game looked like something straight out of 2010. Uninspired play calling, mediocre run blocking, WRs who couldn't get separation, QB play that could be referred to as 'meh' and terrible run defense, all resulted in a game we'll soon wish to forget. After just completing watching the game for a second time (yes, sometimes this gig is rough) I'm ready to try and pull the good and bad out of last night's loss.

Might as well get it out of the way now- both QBs were mediocre last night. Neither Cam Newton nor Jimmy Clausen did anything to separate themselves in the QB competition, and if you really think one looked better than the other you probably need to have your eyes checked, or at least update the prescription on your Cam or Jimmy glasses. Both players struggled moving the ball down field, both should have had an interception that they were given a break on, and both had their own quirks. Four of Cam Newton's completions went to TEs for a total of 36 yards (over 50% of his passing stats), while for Jimmy Clausen six of his completions went to check down options for a total of 50 yards (over 66% of his passing stats). Neither QB did anything to warrant being given any praise, and we learned nothing new; Cam Newton still needs to deal with pressure better and throw off his back foot less, and Clausen needs to do a better job keeping his eyes downfield rather than always looking to his outlets. 

More after the jump

What really did surprise me is the 'end of days' attitude from Panthers fans following the loss. 

End-days-arnold-schwarzenegger-vhs-cover-art_medium

No, I'm not talking about this wonderful movie where Arnie fights the devil, but rather this sentiment that all is for naught in 2011 based on last night's game. Did we really become so delusional from the Giants pre-season game that we thought this rookie team would be immune from mistakes or growing pains? Meanwhile, credit has to be given to the Miami Dolphins who were taken far too lightly leading up to the game. The Dolphins' defense is no joke, and they finished 2010 ranked 6th in the league in total defense, 8th against the pass and 7th against the run; this was never going to be a walk in the park. So, when the Panthers went down to Miami without Steve Smith in the lineup, no Jonathan Stewart or Mike Goodson, with no Geoff Schwartz or Jeff Otah and no Tony Fiametta we really expected to dominate this defense? C'mon guys!

That being said, it wasn't offense that lost the game for us last night though, it was defense. Both the interior and exterior defenses were laughable yesterday as Carolina did their best job ensuring Reggie Bush looked like Bo Jackson, and Brandon Marshall was an analog for Jerry Rice. The defensive tackles were dominated almost every down, and Robert McClain and RJ Stanford took turns being abused as the aforementioned Marshall turned them like tops on many plays. The result was both corners being 3-4 yards out of position on every completion. Finally, an uneven pass rush helped seal the deal on a pretty terrible game.

Optimistic

Thomas Davis, Extemely Optimistic I give all the credit in the world to TD who came back after two season ending injuries and played unafraid. It just goes to highlight how ludicrous and stupid some fans were (don't worry, no one here) in saying Davis never should have be resigned based solely on being held out of practice this week. He finished the game with four total tackles, but he was always there at the right time including the long goal-line stand following the comedic 12 man penalty that lead to the first score. Great game overall from Davis.

Tyrell Sutton, Extremely Optimistic At this point I'm almost more intrigued by the #3 RB battle than the QB battle. I say this because the QB competition is a foregone conclusion, sooner or later it's going to be Cam Newton. Meanwhile, the fight for #3 behind DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart is wide open. Last night when Sutton was given the opportunity to run and play he was very, very solid. We'll have to wait to see how the battle between Sutton and Goodson shakes out, because it's a fascinating one.

Thomas Williams, Somewhat Optimistic The mystery man is back in the good graces with a solid six tackle performance in a backup role. It's his one-on-one tackling ability that really makes him stand out, and he could very well find a spot on this roster. I like this guy's game a lot.

Ugo Chinasa, Somewhat Optimistic Great motor from the UDFA getting to Matt Moore for the sack and subsequent FF which led to the Panthers' only TD of the day. He definitely has an uphill battle to earning a spot, but he's getting noticed.

Pessimistic

Robert McClain and RJ Stanford, Extremely Pessimistic You'll see a few players lumped together for the outlooks this week. McClain and Stanford both looked terrible trying to cover either Brandon Marshall or Brian Hartline. In both cases they consistently allowed the WR to get the better of them and contributed to extending the Dolphins long drives.

1st team DL, Extremely Pessimistic These guys just failed to move the needle at all on Friday night. Charles Johnson didn't get any pressure, the DTs were dominated and in turn allowed the Dolphins to run roughshod over the Panthers. 

Mackenzy Bernardeu and Garry Williams in the rushing game, Extremely Pessimistic Notice the important distinction here. In the passing game Mac-Bern and Williams were okay, but when it was time to run the ball they fell apart. The right side of the OL got almost no push at all, which in turn let everything else fall apart. We need Schwartz back at least, and need him back soon because Bernardeu need to be off the line.

Captain Munnerlyn, Somewhat Pessimistic While not nearly as pronounced as the struggles of McClain and Stanford, the Captain didn't have a good game either. He played off his man a little too much and gave too much of a cushion which allowed soft yards.

Wide Receivers, Somewhat Pessimistic It's hard to tell how much was their fault, and how much was the QBs fault... but really, the WR group were pretty mediocre last night. Without Steve Smith this group is the worst collection of WRs in the NFL, and it's not even close. The hope is that we see some good cuts to get some help because long term we have a lot of players in games right now who have no business of being there.

Overall Outlook

I'm not as upset as others seem to be. Sure, the game was ugly... but for the fact alone that we saw no offensive or defensive creativity tells me the coaches are trying to hide their playbook a little. We were let down in both phases, but a lot of valuable players were sitting out.

Perhaps the most optimistic element of yesterday came with the announcement of Ryan Kalil's extension, because this will free up the money needed to really pick through the 1st and 2nd round of cuts to find some legitimate, talented, veteran help at CB and WR. In the end, I'm not really concerned at all.

95% optimistic heading into preseason week three

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