It’s been a strange training camp highlighted by events that are hard to forget. The Carolina Panthers broke camp on Wednesday, boarded a bus the same afternoon and flew to Philadelphia to play the Eagles on Thursday night.
Then lightning struck. And again. And again. That was followed by a 58 minute delay. When things finally got back underway, only a few diehard fans remained in the stands to weather the downpour that followed.
Still, a game was played before the dozens of fans that remained. The first half was far from what we saw against the Colts last week as the offense struggled and the defense had problems closing out drives on third down – a refrain we’ve heard before.
For those keeping score, and the NFL always does, the Panthers left the field after two quarters with a 10-0 lead when it had been starters versus starters. The final score after a full four quarters and four hours was Philadelphia 24, Carolina 13.
There were some rough moments in this game. Jake Delhomme simply didn’t look like the Jake we remember. The offensive line struggled at times and had problems opening up running lanes. Things could have been much easier had Steve Smith or DJ Hackett been able to play. It certainly could have made Jake’s job a whole lot easier. Delhomme finished 9 of 14 for 54 yards and 1 interception.
Had this been a regular season game it had the look of a slugfest. The Eagles offense had the upper hand early but couldn’t manage any points. The highlight of the game came on a fake field goal by the Eagles. A flip pass was picked off by Richard Marshall as he rushed hard off the left side, intercepted the throw and took it to the house.
Jake and company got their act together in the second quarter and mounted a decent looking drive that could have and should have ended in a touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad but a hit by Brian Dawkins prevented it. It appeared for a bit as if Moose had his bell rung but came back on the next possession.
One problem that seemed to crop up a lot in the first half was the lack of pass rush. Julius Peppers had a tremendous game last week but seemed to disappear in this one. At times, he appeared to be agitated and frustrated. Most troubling was the fact that he was going against a backup tackle.
The second half was Matt Moore time as he got the chance to display his skills. He led the team on one scoring drive to a 49-yard field goal by John Kasay. Jonathan Stewart also had an opportunity to get on the field. He was unspectacular with 4 carries for only 3 yards.
It was Kevin Kolb who would answer with a 17 points, however. Moore found himself behind 17-13 at the two-minute warning. He got his team to near midfield with just over a minute to go. A fourth-down conversion and one improvised pass to Decori Birmingham put the ball at the Eagles 26. It was all for naught as Moore would have a pass tipped and picked off by Justin Roland who took it all the way back to give Philadelphia the win 24-13.
The first cuts come early next week. The team will only be required to cut down to 75 players meaning very few players have to be released.
We promised that we would keep score of our game predictions. It’s not all that pretty but we promised, didn’t we?
- Jake Delhomme will throw more than one pass tonight especially since he’ll likely play into the second quarter. That elbow will be tested a little more in a game situation. He will look good and more of the doubters will have to question themselves.
Jake looked like he was forcing it quite a bit in this game. The Philly defense played him well and the weather didn’t help. Missing Steve Smith much, Jake? Let’s hope this doesn’t become a pattern in those first two regular season games.
- Jonathan Stewart will play little if at all. Coach John Fox has really been hedging his bets on the rookie running back. That surgically repaired toe has been causing him some pain but the docs are telling him it’s just scar tissue.
Nowhere to be found just as we thought – in the first half. First series on offense in the third quarter and…voila! There he was! He only got a few carries but he finally got on the field to the tune of 4 carries and 3 yards.
- DeAngelo Williams will carry the rock effectively. Period.
When he had a running lane or received a screen pass with room, he did look explosive. One run of 22-yards stood out in the first half.
- The offensive line will get more time on the field and will continue to improve. Jeff Otah will keep mauling people and the running lanes will be wide enough for any running back to run through.
There were times that this group looked ragged. Jordan Gross had two consecutive false starts and early in the game, as I was taking notes, I was motivated to write at one point, “The offensive line looks bad!” They improved as the first half wore on but they need work.
- With Steve Smith out (concussion), DJ Hackett out (toe), Dwayne Jarrett out (leg bruise) and Ryne Robinson out (knee sprain), Jason Carter will start opposite Muhsin Muhammad and could very well solidify a spot on the final 53-man roster.
Carter was a bit indecisive on punt return duty but made a couple of decent plays on offense. He still looks like a solid choice to make the final roster.
- Julius Peppers will put on a bull rush, a spin move, a head slap and will finally lay a hit on Donovan McNabb. It will be a beautiful sight for all Panthers fans. The problem is that it will make every Eagles fan cringe.
Could I have been more wrong? Where was Julius? It seemed the only time he was caught on camera he was either on the sidelines or was on the field shaking his head in disgust. Was he being held? Double-teamed? Dominated? He made some noise on an off-sides but not much else.
- The linebackers will have to play their backsides off to hold on to starting roles. Jon Beason is safe while Thomas Davis has been showing improvement. With Landon Johnson and Dan Connor waiting in the wings, Na’il Diggs and Davis will have to show they belong out there.
Landon Johnson made a nice play in the first half to pressure McNabb and forced a poor throw. Beason looked like his usual self – a beast.
- Adam Seward might find himself attached to the bench more until late in the game since he would rather be in New England anyway.
Unlike last week, Seward didn’t make a first half appearance – unless he was extremely quiet. He did play well in the second half putting one big hit on Kevin Kolb.
- Tyler Brayton will not kick anyone in the groin.
Is this the only one I got right? No kicks to the groin? Check!
- Gary Gibson will make another play and someone, somewhere will say, “WOW! Where did he come from?”
Two tackles would hardly make everyone jump up and shout but I’m sure somebody saw the name on the back of his jersey.
- Charles Godfrey will look more and more comfortable in the secondary. The job is his at free safety so now he can begin to play like it belongs to him.
The kid did look solid back there. Congratulations, rookie! The job is yours!