While Cam Coaster Rolls On, The Panthers Defense Causes Concern

If I was a proper columnist, and not a soon-to-be former tv guy dipping into the blogosphere, I would focus on one angle after tonight's preseason mess in Cincinnati: Cam Newton.

So I guess it's convenient that I don't have to play the role of a proper columnist and can instead spew about a bigger issue. 

You see, we didn't learn anything about Newton that we didn't already know. He can pick up chunks of yards on the ground. He throws hard. He's inaccurate. He throws off his back foot too often. He's electric. He's sloppy. 

None of that is new or news. The larger concern after tonight is the Panthers defense. And while it's been clear that defensive tackle and cornerback were problem areas, the question now is: are those areas even worse than many thought?

Some will point to the Ron Edwards injury as a huge blow at defensive tackle. And it was significant. But let's not pretend Edwards was the second coming of the 2003 Kris Jenkins. Edwards could have been the Panthers best DT in at least three seasons, but that's not saying a whole lot.

Since Maake Kemoeatu tore his achilles on the first day of training camp in 2009, defensive tackle has been a mess. What have the Panthers done to fix it? Trade for Tank Tyler. Sign Hollis Thomas. Draft a couple guys in the third round. That's like putting a band-aid on a problem the size of Kemoeatu.

Last week, Reggie Bush ran inside successfully for perhaps the first time in his NFL career. Tonight, the defensive tackles were again moved around like chess pieces. Fantasy footballers that own Arizona's Beanie Wells are already frothing at the mouth for Week 1.

As far as cornerback goes, Chris Gamble has been and still is the Panthers top guy. At least, he's getting paid that way and he's been asked to be a "shut-down" corner. And while AJ Green could turn into a fantastic NFL WR, the fact that he burned Gamble badly twice tonight is concerning. 

If you struggle against the fearsome rookie duo of Andy Dalton and Green, it's unlikely teams will be afraid of "Gamble Island." Oh yeah, and again, he's the Panthers best CB.

With all that said, it'd be ridiculous to say with certainty that another 2-14 season is on the way. Most of the "problems" we can harp on is from two preseason games. Last time I checked, they don't mean anything.

Of course, neither did the preseason games in 2010. You remember those, right? The ones where the Panthers told us not to read into an offense that deserved a parade when they somehow earned a first down. 

The Panthers aren't going to make a Super Bowl run this year. A playoff berth is also unlikely. This season is more about making significant improvements, especially at quarterback. The Panthers are willing to hop on the Cam Coaster in hopes that the ride will be smoother in future years.

Those 2010 preseason results were precursors of what would come. Will the same be the case in 2011? It's still way too early to make that call, but it's not too early to at least be concerned.

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