Carolina Panthers Monday Morning Optimist– 8/27/12

Sadly this was the story for much of the night for Cam. Poor protection, and no room to move. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE

It was a game that played out exactly how we should have expected. The Panthers struggled on national TV, just like they always do. The offense minus Steve Smith was pretty terrible, and they were facing one of the best defenses in the NFL who made them look foolish. We keep coming back to the same issue with this team: The starters have ample talent, but scratch the surface and you expose the chinks in the armor. Without Smitty they couldn't stretch the field, and with Stewart leaving one can imagine how bad the offense would have been in a regular season game. Success in a 16 game season comes from depth, and the Panthers don't have depth yet.

It was a win, and that's always nice– but it was a pretty deflating performance. This was supposed to be the night we saw more of the playbook, even if it was just 20-30% of what we'll see in the regular season. The first team weren't expected to dominate, but they made a fairly underwhelming team look very good, and that's a problem. Now we'll need to wait until week one, and hope that like last year preseason wont be indicative of the team we see. Against Pittsburgh we'll only see the first team for a quarter at most, so we won't likely learn anything about the team next week.

More after the jump

Around the NFL teams have begun to make their cuts, and today the Panthers will need to get down to 75 players prior to the huge cut in around a week. Stick with CSR today as we'll keep you updated with the roster moves as they happen.

Optimistic

Luke Kuechly- Extremely Optimistic

If you're still looking for reasons to denigrate his performance thus far then you have an agenda, and a rather poor one at that. Finishing the game with 10 tackles Kuechly found himself consistently in the right place to make a play. This should be nothing surprising for a player who diagnoses plays so well. When I evaluated him in March and April what jumped off the screen was how high his football IQ is, and it has been showing each week.

Greg Olsen- Extremely Optimistic

Last night Olsen was Cam's favorite target, and it showed. On critical downs, or when the Panthers needed a gain he was there. Perhaps Rivera wasn't so crazy in predicting a huge season. He finished with just three receptions for 29 yards, but you can see that he's Cam's safety blanket, and with his athleticism it should result in big dividends.

Brandon LaFell- Extremely Optimistic

He was sure-handed when needed, clutch when needed, and he blocked well on several occasions. Overall he proved why the Panthers like him so much, and why he's cemented his job as the #2 receiver on this team. Like Olsen, his statistics don't leap off the page, but he played a good game.

Thomas Davis- Extremely Optimistic

He's back... does anything more need to be said?

Gary Barnidge- Extremely Optimistic

Ended up the Panthers leading receiver, and showed the athleticism that should be nice when the Panthers are looking to spell Greg Olsen.

Thomas Keiser- Somewhat Optimistic

Hard to get too excited about 3rd string competition, but he continues to be the Panthers best pass rusher when he's on the field.

Kealoha Pilares- Somewhat Optimistic

In his primary role at KR he got no help whatsoever, and looked lackluster. However the was used on an end-around, caught two passes, and showed the versatility he brings to the table.

Josh Norman- Somewhat Optimistic

There were good moments, and bad moments. You can tell he's still a rookie, so a lot will be forgiven. The ability to play tight man coverage is there, but there are occasions where he gets over-aggressive, and that puts him out of position.

Pessimistic

Offensive Line- Extremely Pessimistic

It's tempting to just hang this on Byron Bell and Amini Silatolu, the primary offenders last night, but really they could have gotten more help too. Cam didn't have much room to operate, and while some of that was his fault not making adjustments at the line of scrimmage, it's also very much on the OL for not dealing with the stout Jets' pass rush. We know Amini struggles in pass protect– especially against stunts, but when Bell is struggling too there's not much of a pocket for Newton. New York had a great game plan to take advantage of the inexperienced pass rushers, and they did.

Defensive Line- Extremely Pessimistic

Much the the offensive line, they looked lost. Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy generated almost no pressure, and the defensive tackles... well... we knew they were lacking. Mark Sanchez had far too long to throw, and if his WRs could convert the Panthers would have been in trouble, thankfully they didn't.

Seyi Ajirotutu- Extremely Pessimistic

I'm tired of having this discussion. Obviously the coaching staff sees something, because I'm utterly flummoxed.

Captain Munnerlyn- Somewhat Pessimistic

When put into a position to succeed in the slot he played very well, however too often he played on the outside yet again, and struggled like he did last season. Ultimately the good wasn't quite enough to outweigh the bad.

Overall Outlook

It's premature to freak out, or worry. There are obvious concerns, but nothing we shouldn't have expected based on what this team looked like on paper. We'll see what happens when everything is opened up week one.

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