If I’m being honest, the proper title for this edition of the Monday Morning Optimist would be At least nobody died, but I’m trying to remain upbeat here so I’ll avoid using it. This was a tough game to watch, y’all, and you’re not supposed to feel that way about the third preseason game. This is supposed to be the dress rehearsal for the regular season, and what we witnessed last night was a wardrobe malfunction of epic proportions.
Simply put, Cam Newton was off last night. He was relying on back-footed throws too frequently and remained locked onto Kelvin Benjamin far more than he should have. The few times he tried to get other receivers into the game, they let him down by refusing to catch the ball. Even normally reliable targets like Brenton Bersin struggled to haul in Newton’s passes, and the first team offense was limited to a paltry 3 points.
The Patriots didn’t have any issues catching passes from Newton, however, and I can’t help but question the integrity of the footballs since one team clearly had an advantage over the other. Okay, that was probably a joke, but it was disheartening to see Newton making so many poor decisions last night. Even Derek Anderson was afflicted with badquarterbackitis as he threw an interception in the end zone on one of the few scoring opportunities the Panthers had in the first half.
The Panthers’ third unit managed to make the game appear closer than it actually was when Joe Webb and Marcus Lucas hooked up for two touchdowns. Hopefully this doesn’t create a quarterback controversy, but it tells you what kind of night it was when Webb was the only Panthers quarterback worth watching. It could mean better opportunities in the preseason finale for Lucas, however, as he was one of the few receivers able to consistently catch the football.
On the bright side, this game didn’t mean anything except for providing the coaching staff with game film to evaluate who will make the roster and who will not. We don’t need the pitchforks just yet, but if this is the team we see in Denver on September 8 then it might not be too long before we have to pull them out of storage and storm the castle.
With that being said, the coaching staff now has a better handle on what they need to work on before the regular season starts, and we just have to sit patiently and wait for the kinks to get worked out. I’m not ready to sound the alarms just yet, but I did take the cover off the button, just in case.
What I liked...
Kasey Redfern - Very Optimistic
It should tell you what kind of game this was when the most optimistic award goes to the UDFA punter we signed from Wofford two weeks ago. However, Redfern was booming punts all night long, and despite giving up a huge return (to be fair, the coverage unit was shafted by a missed block in the back penalty), he saved a touchdown by tackling the returner. With Mike Scifres going down in the first quarter with a leg injury, don’t be surprised if Redfern plants himself on the 53-man roster.
First Team Defense - Very Optimistic
They’re mostly ready for the regular season, but the secondary still needs a little work. Fortunately, the front seven is solid enough to mask most of their deficiencies when the games count.
David Mayo - Very Optimistic
He’s playing his way onto the 53-man roster and has been consistently good all preseason. I’m not sure yet who will lose their spot for him, but he should make the team.
Marcus Lucas - Somewhat Optimistic
He caught two touchdown passes, albeit from Joe Webb. He deserves to get a look with the 2nd team next week to see if he can earn a spot on the roster somewhere.
Cameron Artis-Payne - Somewhat Optimistic
CAP looked solid tonight running behind the first team offensive line. He certainly showed he deserves a spot on the 53-man roster, and the absence of Brandon Wegher so far this preseason could make that a reality.
Devin Funchess - Somewhat Optimistic
Funchess made some great catches and was one of the only WRs to have a stand out game in a postive way. It’s been reported throughout training camp that he’s this season’s breakout candidate, and last night showed that to be a strong possibility.
What I didn’t like...
Penalties - Very Pessimistic
I’ll say it again... get those cleaned up, guys.
Injuries - Very Pessimistic
Players getting hurt goes against the entire point of the preseason. Several players were dinged up last night, and hopefully none of the injuries are too serious.
First team offense - Very Pessimistic
The whole first team offense—aside from Funchess and Artis-Payne—looked lost. The offensive line managed to provide Cam with decent protection, but he couldn’t find a rhythm, and when he did the receivers let him down by failing to catch the football. There are too many players who disappointed to name individually, so I’ll just lump the whole group into this section to save y’all some time (you’re welcome).
Daryl Worley - Somewhat Pessimistic
I’m going to go easy on him because he’s a rookie, but he still looks lost out there. Oh, and he tried some weird leap-frog inspired tackling strategy on Garoppolo that hilariously didn’t work. (At least it led to an awesome chase down by Thomas Davis.) It was another rough night for him, and it proves he’s still got a long way to go. Fortunately his mistakes thus far are correctable and should get ironed out as he grows familiar with the system.
The annual Richardson/Rooney Cocktail Party is Thursday at 7:30 p.m. EDT. You should expect to see the first team make a brief appearance and then bow out for the reserves mid-way through the first quarter. If you like watching fringe players fight for imaginary roster spots, this is definitely the game for you!