The Carolina Panthers won Friday night's preseason game against the Chicago Bears, but it's hard to say the game was dominant -- unless you're referring to the Panthers' pass rush. Game one was full of ups and downs across the board, so lets look at the five players who stood out and improved their position, and those who'll need to do more work.
Rather than simply crediting every player who did well, today we're looking at players who improved their position on the depth chart, or those who helped solidify their spot on the roster. Armanti Edwards, for example, had a very good game -- but he wont make this list because he played to the standard you want to see from a third receiver. The same can be said of Charles Johnson, who also had an excellent game.
You would be hard pressed to find a player who had a worse opening to training camp. Gettis was slow in his cuts, showed unreliable hands, and looked like a player who would be destined for the first round of cuts. His 3 catch, 56 yard game bought Gettis much-needed time. He's a long way from making the final roster, and one good preseason game doesn't erase three weeks of bad practices, but it's a start. If he can put more of these together he has a good chance to make the back-end of the roster.
Playing off the line of scrimmage is the worst possible place for Norman, and something he was asked to do far too often in 2012. Friday's game showed his ability to play at the line, and not commit penalties, which is huge for a physical corner. Norman was going to make this 53, but now he's putting pressure on Captain Munnerlyn for a starting job.
While he still isn't the right quarterback for Carolina, Clausen had a very good game on Friday night. His 55.5 completion percentage led all Panthers' quarterbacks, and he was the only passer not to throw an interception. It's an uphill battle for Clausen, who's working not only to secure a backup role, but doing so with a general manager who comes from a football tradition of only keeping two quarterbacks. Jimmy might be able to buck the trend, but there's more work to be done.
It was interesting to hear the Carolina Panthers' coaching staff offer more effusive praise about Short than first-round pick Star Lotulelei -- but we saw it in action on Friday night. Lotulelei is as good as expected, but short is better than anticipated. His first step was very quick, he routinely helped collapse the pocket, and looks like an excellent pass rusher from the under tackle position. It's a matter of time before his presses Dwan Edwards for the starting job.
The fumble machine of 2012 is back, and the early results are very encouraging. Adams isn't perfect, and still takes too many risks -- but he's become a more reliable punt returner. His first of the night, a 23-yard gain, is a glimpse into his ability in the open field. If he can continue to put it together he's a lock to make the 53 for his special teams value alone.
It was a bizarre reversal of fortunes to see David Gettis thrive in preseason, and Ted Ginn drop off the face of the earth. Ginn was one of the best receivers in training camp, but looked completely lost on Friday night. Some of that is on Derek Anderson, and some is on Ginn himself. There will need to be huge improvement entering the Philadelphia game if he wants to stand out and solidify the 4th receiver spot.
For two years Anderson has been a reliable backup for the Panthers, but entering the third he looked as bad as we've seen him. His passes sailed high, wide, and nowhere near receivers. All night it looked like Anderson and the rest of the offense were reading out of two different playbooks. Major improvements will need to be made.
Fans had high-hopes for the Panthers' rookie entering his first game, and while much of his on-field play was good, he also can't resemble Mike Goodson. The inclination is to justify the fumbles by talking about his yards per carry, or ability to catch out of the backfield -- but the fastest way to get put on the inactive list each week is by putting the ball on the ground. The first was a terrible example of ball security, and while the second was largely on Jimmy Clausen, Barner made the classic mistake of looking where he was going to run, without securing the football first.
The right tackle spot is bad, there's no other way to put it. Bell got given a huge reprieve as Julius Peppers didn't play in Friday's game, and Bell still managed to make it look difficult. The situation got worse as he transitioned to left tackle, with poor results. At this point it's hard to work out exactly what the team needs to do. Bell is their only player to put on the right, and he can't play left tackle (so stop the experiment now), however the free agent pool is still lean. The Panthers will need to wait until cuts to make a switch.
The second-year left guard faded as the game went on, which could be attributed to early-season legs. Silatolu played an abnormal number of snaps out of necessity, and it showed. There were moments where he shined, but the problem continues to be that Silatolu is a guard who plays best in space, but is too often relied on to be an inline blocker. Those are skills he needs to develop further, but they wont come immediately.