The title is somewhat misleading. However, there are some areas where the young guys have a decent amount of studying to do, and thankfully, there are three more weeks of preseason before wins and losses really count for something. Until then, it’s mostly a time to bare it and grin, even though as the regular season draws closer with each passing week, the urgency to see improvement will become more prevalent from fans.
Thursday night’s loss to Baltimore was not a surprise to me, and at the same time I really didn’t mind the loss. All-in-all, it was a good game. Both teams showed some strengths and weaknesses, and right now every team needs to make adjustments and improve in areas. Realize too, that this is a very young team, where the age averages out to about 25…even though Matt Moore turned 26 the other day.
So for the first time in a while, I was actually excited by this game. Win or lose, it was just great to see football back on TV again, and seeing all the new faces. Aside from the more noted players, I was struggling early on to remember who was wearing what number. The old standards are gone now, and aside from a handful, the new faces are plentiful. You could definitely sense the youth on this team. Reactions were a lot faster than they’ve been in recent years.
So which players stood out tonight? There were a few, to be certain.
We’ll start with second-year fullback Tony Fiammetta, who had a number of passes thrown his way, and I was astounded each time he made a grab and kept going with it.
Another player stepping up to the plate, was Dan Connor at middle linebacker. The guy has definitely picked up the system to start out, and I would say it’s safe to say he will show more improvement as the weeks continue.
Jimmy Clausen had a strong showing, and I do believe made a strong case to be the No. 2 quarterback — even though this is only the first preseason game, and he has yet to play against a first-team defense. I did like what I saw from Clausen.
At defensive end, it seems safe to say “Julius who?”
The defense registered five sacks against the Ravens, three from Tyler Brayton, and two consecutive sacks by rookie defensive end Greg Hardy later in the game. Also looking really good was rookie defensive and and linebacker Eric Norwood.
Overall, the defensive front was pretty strong throughout, and looks right on track to be ready by Week One at the Giants. The offense was bland for the most part. It did see some flashes of strength from tight end Dante Rosario, Dwayne Jarrett, and Brandon LaFell.
Also turning heads and grabbing my attention, was Tyrell Sutton, who until he fumbled the ball on the goal line, was motoring the offensive unit down the field on one drive.
I’m sure the offense could have done without three fouls committed by left tackle Jordan Gross, but that’s par for the course.
Special teams was slow for the most part, showing that it’s still the unit that is this team’s weakest link. There were a couple of good returns, but still more of the fair catch waving as last year. A couple of times 10 to 15 yards could have been gained in lieu of waving the fair catch.
The defense definitely looks to be ahead of it’s offensive counterparts. Which is great, considering the defensive line was the biggest question mark going into the season.
In the end, this is still preseason, and considering that three of the Panthers’ four preseason opponents will be seen again in regular season, it’s better to keep things as bland as possible — only showing enough to see what they have.