Good Morning Panther faithful! Normally following a 33-17 loss I would feel deflated, disappointed and forlorn; trying desperately to pull some positives out of an ugly loss, but not today. Obviously there are things to work on, the DL is still in shambles, we're now in need of a starting RG and there are still concerns in the secondary, but all things considered last night's loss was a pretty positive one.
Like it will for much of the year, it starts with Cam Newton. This performance by the rookie was the best we've seen him in a Panthers uniform, not just from how he looks on a box score, but as a continuance of those nuances I discussed last week. While there weren't many occasions to observe his mechanics what I did notice was a better backpedal under center, and a more natural weight transfer onto his front foot. Against Cincinnati he was planting very deliberately, almost like rote memorization rather than anything organic, last night his movement under center looked more relaxed, and the two passes he did miss were a missed pass interference call to Shockey and a rookie screw up on the out route to Smith. Those rookie mistakes are still going to happen, but it's impossible to not say he's the team's best option at this point as an entire package. When Cam's only series was a 9 play, 71 yard TD drive and he was personally involved in getting 44 of those yards (25 in the air, 19 on the ground) it's hard to not be a little excited.
More after the jump
I know because of injury and rumors of a lack of conditioning RT Jeff Otah is much maligned, but last night showed that he really is an elite, top 10 (maybe better) right tackle in the NFL when healthy. Yesterday he dealt with the stout left side of the Pittsburgh line, and he did so with flying colors. Otah constantly held up his man in the passing game, pushing back into the second level in the running game and was the glue that held the OL together. Even if the Panthers need to scramble at RG until they find a permanent option it's Jeff Otah who is the hero of the OL for now, as they are exponentially better with him on the line.
David Clowney has really made a case to make the 53 man roster this season. In a lot of ways he's this season's David Gettis. Up until week three of the 2010 pre-season many had Gettis on the list of final cuts, but he came through with some big performances to solidify his place on the team, eventually paving the way for him to become a starter. With Gettis now on the IR there's definitely an air of history repeating with David Clowney who finishes the pre-season with 3 receptions for 50 yards, 1 TD and 1 rush for 11 yards- I think he'll squeak onto the roster and at this point I would start him over Legedu Naanee in a heartbeat.
On to the individual ratings...
Derek Anderson- Extremely Optimistic Whether it's throwing TD passes, or helping the young guys with the playbook, veteran Derek Anderson takes his *ahem* job very seriously. Last night Anderson was the most pleasant surprise of the night as he finished with 11 completions for 190 yards and a TD. Reports are that he has now surpassed Jimmy Clausen for #2 on the depth chart and rightfully so. He knows this offense, has done everything asked of him since arriving in Charlotte and looks like the veteran backup we always wanted. It just goes to show where judging a player too hastily can get you.
Cam Newton- Extremely Optimistic See above. Really, if you told me at this point Cam Newton would have no turnovers while passing for one TD and rushing for another I would be over the moon. While some want to characterize this process as Newton being 'handed' the starting job, I believe he's earned it. The offense simply looks better with Cam under center.
Jeff Otah- Extremely Optimistic Jeffy... where have you been all my life! Seriously, this offense is completely different with Otah paving the way at RT. I just hope he holds up for the season.
Thomas Williams- Extremely Optimistic They have to find a spot for this guy... they just have to. There's something very 'Jeremy Leman' about Williams. If you remember Leman from the 2009 pre-season he was a player we had who would fly around the field making plays every chance he got. At the time we had to cut him because of roster constraints, but I always wondered what kind of ST impact he would have made if he stayed. This is the team's chance to ensure they don't let another guy like that get away. The first week of pre-season I saw a spark in this guy, and it seems the coaching staff see it too... I just want him to hang on.
Jimmy Clausen- Extremely Pessimistic I don't want to pick on the guy, but his play makes it too easy. Last night Clausen played absolutely atrociously. While there could be some contention about whose fault his INT was, there were at least two more passes that should have been picked off.
Interior DL- Extremely Pessimistic Not much really more to say here. They need to sign some players to help at DT and fast, because it was ugly again last night.
Armanti Edwards- Somewhat Pessimistic AE had his ups and downs last night, but in the end there were more downs than ups. The good thing is that we're seeing him become more and more comfortable in the WR role, but that doesn't necessarily translate into him being any good. We're still waiting to see how much he can contribute to this team.
James Anderson- Somewhat Pessimistic Not used to putting Anderson down here, but last night he was very lackluster. There were times he was out of position, other times his coverage was suspect and one occasions where he tackles Sione Fua instead of the ball carrier! It was just an uncharacteristically bad night for James Anderson.
It begins next week! Finally, the real games can begin and the prognostication can end. The Carolina Panthers need help on both sides of the line, but I'm confident we'll see some prudent signings off waivers. Personally, there's no reason not to be excited right now until the team gives me reason to think otherwise.
100% optimistic heading into week one vs. Arizona