Carolina Panthers Monday Morning Optimist 8/26/11 (Friday edition)

Good morning Panther faithful! Really, what is there to say about last night's game? It was a complete and utter debacle in the trenches which in turn made everything else look a lot worse that it really was. Of course, we have cause to be extremely concerned, calling the defense 'pedestrian' last night would be  the understatement of the century, but really it came down to two positions: DT and DE.

Kentwan Balmer was a nice addition, but he's not going to be the answer to this problem. The DT spot was neglected for too many years to find a replacement overnight. Less than three weeks ago I wrote about need to solve the position long term, so unfortunately we'll be enduring the mismanagement of the DL for time to come. However, while the building of the DL occurs they need to bolster the position greatly. Given the circumstances Sione Fua is doing alright, for a rookie NT he's having more good snaps than bad ones, and he's holding the point of attack as well as he can. The story next to him is very different, and it's telling how the coaching staff are grasping at straws trying to find an under tackle worth a damn; we saw a mix of Fua/Irvin, Fua/McClain, Fua/Neblett... all in a vain attempt to find a combination that worked, and they never did. 

Across from Charles Johnson is another huge area of concern. I, like most of you hope that Greg Hardy is the answer when he returns from injury, but the truth is we should probably prepare ourselves that it's not going to be all champagne and roses even with the Kracken in the lineup. He's a second year player who has his own issues against the run who isn't used to seeing starting caliber tackles, it will take some time. Last night showed us why being hasty in cuts can bite you, because Tyler Brayton would have been able to hold the edge yesterday in the run game, something neither Everette Brown, nor Eric Norwood could do.

More after the jump

Sometimes I impress even myself... I managed to wait until all the way after the jump to type 'Cam Newton', so here's my time to shine! Sorry if it offends, but I'm not pulling any punches- if in the last 12 hrs you are a Carolina Panthers fan (or heck, even just a football fan) and mentioned the terms 'bust' or 'Andrew Luck' regarding Cam Newton then you have absolutely no understanding of football, you just don't... the knowledge level isn't there and you need to spend more time analyzing and less time typing. Harsh? Sure... but it's true.

As crazy as it sounds last night was the best we've seen Cam Newton, and before you 'rabble, rabble' over it and point out stats let me tell you what I saw last night that I didn't see in games one or two: 

 

  • Cam was actively trying to plant his feet and drive the passes through, rather than rocking back. Were there times he faltered and regressed to bad habits? Sure... but keep in mind he's likely never had a OL pushed back into him physically when he's trying to throw.; such is the life of a spread offense QB. It wasn't until he had a body bumping into him that he threw off his back foot, which is an improvement over the 1st and 2nd game when he threw back-footed when he didn't need to.
  • Newton went through his full progressions last night (sans the checkdowns). Previously I've seen him go through two reads at the most before throwing too early, last night he truly went through every single read before choosing to throw or run. This was a major leap forward.
  • He started reacting to real pressure, rather than perceived pressure. In weeks one and two he had a tendency to throw too quickly rather than let routes develop because he felt a pass rush that weren't close enough to warrant a change in reads. Last night Cam held onto the ball and extended plays as much as he possibly could before making the decision to throw or run. It's this skill that separates the Ben Roethlisberger's from the Jimmy Clausen's- having the confidence to stand in the pocket and throw the ball knowing you'll take a hit. Instead of rolling out and looking for an outlet, or throwing it away, he stood tall and delivered passes downfield.
  • Knowing when to run was another area that stood out. Cam is not a running QB, he's a QB who can run and to me that delineation is extremely promising. He took off only when he had to, and looked more to try and find a receiver than run the football.
Now, on to the individual ratings


Optimistic

Thomas Davis, Extremely Optimistic Especially with Beason missing some time TD is as important as ever. It's great because he doesn't look like he's missed a beat at all since missing the better part of two seasons due to ACL tears. He's flying around the field like he always was, and making plays like he always has. Good stuff to see from #58.

James Anderson, Extremely Optimistic Concurrently, Anderson needs a shout out too for playing very well last night. Though the Panthers got almost no help from their DTs the outside linebackers still found a way to make plays when given the chance. 

DeAngelo Williams, Extremely Optimistic Lost in the strains of 'we're doomed!' came the realization how little we're using Double Trouble this preseason. DeAngelo had only 5 carries, but got 27 yards... that's 5.4 YPC which is right on the money for DeAngelo.

Charles Godfrey, Somewhat Optimistic Sure, he missed a play here or there, but overall Godfrey played a pretty good game. He still goes for the big hit too much when he needs to wrap up, but Godfrey was one of the few defensive players who looked 'busy' on every down.

Cam Newton, Somewhat Optimistic See above. NFL.com's headline includes 'Newton takes a step back' and honestly I feel like whoever wrote that got a copy of the box score rather than the game tape. His nuances are vastly improved, but stats don't reflect nuances.


Pessimistic

Under-tackles, Extremely Pessimistic Terrell McClain, Corvey Irvin and Andre Neblett combined for just three solo tackles and two assists. Let that sink in for a second and now realize the Bengals ran the ball 35 times with their running backs. This means when an RB was finally tackled the chance one of our DTs was involved was 14%.

DEs not named 'Charles Johnson', Extremely Pessimistic The guy opposite CJ, whether it was Everette Brown or Eric Norwood was just terrible. They couldn't seal the edge, didn't get to the passer despite being 1-on-1 all game and when they did get in the backfield they couldn't finish. Just a terrible game.

Mackenzy Bernardeau, Extremely Pessimistic Nothing more to say... he shouldn't be playing on this team, let alone starting. Everyone is worse when Mac-Bern is on the line as they try to overcompensate for his mistakes.

Chris Gamble, Extremely Pessimistic I'm hoping this was just rust from sitting so long without playing, and yes, I do know that AJ Green is going to be a beast. That being said, you can't get beat terribly by a rookie on two occasions. When he was beat Gamble was a good 4 yards out of position.

Armanti Edwards, Somewhat Pessimistic This was just a bad game for AE and his error came on a play he should have corrected before.

Brandon LaFell, Somewhat Pessimistic I'll just quote Brandon's twitter for this one:
Played like #shit 2nite no other way 2 say it

Charly Martin, Somewhat Pessimistic Two penalties like that? Two? I like the guy, but this was probably the straw to break the camels back.

Overall Outlook
I still hold out hope (as pathetic as it may be) that somewhere there's the copy of the play-book we used against the Giants, full of plays that are creative and dynamic on both sides of the ball. I hope the last two games have exemplified this team playing to their weaknesses intentionally to see how bad it can be, but when the real plays are rolled out that use this team's strengths then everything will get better.

80% optimistic heading into next week vs. Pittsburgh
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