The evaluation stage continues as we try and dissect what went wrong for the Carolina Panthers yesterday. Pro Football Focus have released their player grades for yesterday's game and the team looks quite good overall -- which shows that the wild card was coaching.
Only seven players had negative grades on offense, while 12 players rated at the league-average or above. This is a huge shift from preseason, but the offense looked just as flat. When Cam Newton and the offensive line both finish with positive grades it's hard to justify their failures in moving the ball.
Star Lotulelei (+2.8)
The Carolina rookie was the best player on the field regardless of team. He finished with a +1.2 in run defense, +0.9 in pass rushing and surprisingly a +0.5 in pass coverage -- who knew!?
He was everything the Panthers hoped he would be when they selected him in the first round. If he can keep this up he'll be a huge difference maker in 2013 and make a run at rookie of the year.
Greg Hardy (+2.7)
Charles Johnson made the big play, but Hardy was the most reliable pass rusher despite failing to register a sack. He finished with three quarterback hits and one hurry, giving him a +1.5 pass rush rating on the day.
It will be very interesting to see how contract talk progresses as the year goes on. General managers around the league don't care about sack numbers, they care about ratings like this.
Cam Newton (+2.2)
Newton was the Panthers' best offensive player on the day and finished with an identical grade to Russell Wilson. That really tells the whole story. He was let down by the teammates and coaching around him -- that's a crying shame.
Unfortunately game charting isn't something that moves the needle in the face of narratives, so I still expect this will be about how Newton can't lead his team while Wilson can.
Chris Scott (-5.6)
Scott's game wasn't just ugly, it was atrocious. It never fails that if the Panthers coaches talk up a player he'll lay an egg at the next outing.
DeAngelo Williams (-2.3)
The fumble really hurt, but DeAngelo didn't do anything special in either the run or pass game yesterday. The offensive lines opened good enough gaps that any NFL running back could have made it through. That's concerning and the hope will be that Jonathan Stewart can return quickly.
Kawann Short (-2.3)
This grade is most disappointing because of how well he played in preseason. Chalk it up to rookie jitters and over-exuberance. I expect this will turn around as the season progresses.