Two weeks into preseason, and we’ve already witnessed more than we can bear. Some say it’s time to hit the panic button, others say not so fast, and some take the wait-and-see approach, not committing to one side or another. I tend to ride the fence, though I dabble with pessimism and optimism.
A part of me says, “it’s only preseason, why the concern?” While the other half of me says “if this is how this team is going to look in Week One, they are in deep doo-doo.”
On the lighter side of things, the defense is looking pretty darn good! I doubt any of us truly expected to see a defense that has played with such vigor, coming out of the offseason. Yet again, it’s only preseason, and no offense is going to play full-speed in an exhibition game.
Which brings about Carolina’s offense. If you follow the prior example of “no offense is going to play full-speed in an exhibition game,” then there’s light at the end of the proverbial tunnel…right? Maybe. Because on the flip-side, the quarterbacking has been an atrocity, even for practice games. The wideouts can’t gain any separation or hold onto the bulk of passes thrown their way — when the pass doesn’t go sailing over their heads, out of bounds, or into the hands of a waiting defender.
Another topic to debate is the ability of the offensive line. More times than not, whomever is at quarterback has been left hanging to dry. Theoretically, you can almost hear the o-line saying “oops,” everytime a defender gets by and either pressures or sacks the quarterback. To date, there has been no improvement in pass-protection.
So offensively, there are three areas of major concern. Primarily it starts with the o-line, because how can a quarterback even attempt to throw an accurate pass, if he’s got a defender grabbing at his throat in two seconds after the snap? It’s like on the second step of a three step-drop, the QB is already on the ground, or making some kind of errant pass!
On the topic of quarterbacks, there needs to be a vast improvement in the passing game, once the o-line remembers how to play pass-protection, and Jordan Gross — who will never settle down and stop committing ridiculous penalties — lays back a little bit. Once the offensive line learns how to block again, the quarterback will need to be instrumental with his receivers in getting the ball to them. Not over their heads nor out of bounds…Let’s also hope that at some point, when the quarterback might have to keep the ball and run with it, that we don’t see the guy running downfield holding the ball with both arms in the air like a fool.
As for the receivers…Can you get a little separation, Dwayne Jarrett? How about learning how to run a receiving route accurately? I have no problems with this guy being named the No. 2 receiver … If he’s earned it. But right now, since Brandon LaFell seems to be at or about the same wavelength as Jarrett, and nobody else has really shown much to stake a claim, it looks as if by default, Jarrett will be named the No. 2 receiver opposite Steve Smith in Week One. A team can’t effectively have a No. 2 WRC (Wide Receiver by Committee) and expect it to work effectively. There will be a named No. 2 guy in Week One.
Right now, the Panthers look rather foolish for trading a second-round draft pick to the New England Patriots, to pick again in the third for the services of a project player, who right now, I hold very little hope for — especially this season. Armanti Edwards experiment; the college quarterback-turned-wide receiver to give the team a boost on special teams, has done anything but give the team a boost on special teams…or at wide receiver, for that matter.
The team has to put a player in place on the return game, who has this crazy thing called experience. The more experience, the more success. Some say to fire the new special teams coach. I don’t think bringing in someone else is going to solve the problem, especially since thus-far, the only three I’ve seen being given the most opportunities in the return game are Edwards, Captain Munnerlyn, and Mike Goodson.
The team acquired Wallace Wright, Marcus Hudson, and Aaron Francisco (who has been injured) for a reason. I surely was expecting to see some returns and not more fair catches being waved and balls being fumbled away.
Too harsh? Maybe. Realistic as of right now? Absolutely.
Finally, the punt coverage has also been incredibly jaw-dropping…in a not-so-good way, allowing multiple returns for exceptional yardage. It has to stop. And in order for fans and the team to think that this squad of Panthers is even remotely “for real,” it has to end now!
The upcoming game against the Tennessee Titans will be the starting lineup’s last opportunity to correct a plethora of mistakes and lost opportunities. It also gives the team’s run defense a strong test, in defending the league’s best running back in Chris Johnson.
Follow Cat Crave on Twitter @THECatCrave.
Tags: Aaron Francisco Armanti Edwards Brandon LaFell Captain Munnerlyn Carolina Panthers Chris Johnson Dwayne Jarrett Hunter Cantwell Jimmy Clausen John Fox Jordan Gross Marcus Hudson Matt Moore Mike Goodson NFL Preseason Steve Smith Tennessee Titans Tony Pike Wallace Wright