“Put in Clausen. Sign Antonio Bryant. Fire Fox. Trade a running-back.”
Boy, some fans are in mid-season form, already.
After the Panthers’ 15-7 win(?) Saturday night against the Tennessee Titans, there is still a very unsettling feeling in the queen city. Fans are not satisfied, nor should they be, with the paltry performance by the Panthers’ offense so far in the preseason.
But I beg you, step away from the ledge and/or take off your Jimmy Clausen jerseys. I plead to you, let us remember one very important fact…this is the preseason, folks.
Take a deep breath, and ask yourself three questions:
- Has Matt Moore ever looked like an NFL caliber quarterback in any of his previous three preseasons?
- Has the Panthers’ offense ever set the world on fire in the preseason under John Fox?
- Has the defense ever looked so determined; so hungry?
No, no and no. Which is also what I say to those of us who have already jumped off the Matt Moore bandwagon. Perhaps it is the eye-popping green grass in Clausenville. Maybe it is the shortening of the average attention span. Matt Moore gives the Carolina Panthers the best chance to win, period.
There is one thing that is being overlooked when it comes to the offenses’ struggles, and that is ‘play-calling.’
During OTAs and throughout most of training camp, the offense focused almost exclusivly on the passing game. This was (and still appears to be) the one area that needed immediate improvement, according to Fox. While that improvement remains to be seen, it must be noted that during the regular season, the play-calling will be different.
In three preseason games, the offense has attempted to pass 60% of the time. During the regular season, expect this to be the other way around. John Fox and Jeff Davidson know that if they want to win games, they will need to run the ball 60% of the time. Being able to run the ball at such a clip means the Panthers are avoiding large deficits, and even taking leads into the second half.
We can equate the offenses’ preseason struggles to playing ping-pong left handed. Their working on a weakness, but at the same time they are assuming their strength will remain just as effective without much practice.
As for the game Saturday night:
First let us cover the bright spots. Trent Guy looked very sharp handling punt return duties. Mike Goodson finally flashed the big play potential the Panthers took a gamble on in the fourth round last offseason. Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards both made nice grabs. And then there is the defense…
What can we say? They were tremendous. The pass rush harassed the Titans quarterbacks all night long. The linebackers were sifting through the trash and stopping run plays before they got started. The secondary intercepted two passes (both by cornerback Brian Witherspoon). Ron Meeks uncharacteristically blitzed the Titans, as two players from the secondary recorded sacks. Just as we cannot put too much stock into the offensive woes, this defensive emergence must be treated much the same.
The negatives are pretty apparent. The offense hasn’t scored a touchdown in the preseason. While the Panthers scored 15 points, there was a special teams touchdown and three field goals. The offense, to their credit, did sustain several long drives to get in position for those field goals. The running game was all but shut down, gaining only 59 yards on 23 attempts.
All in all, it was good to see the Panthers win a game in the preseason, something they failed to accomplish last season before starting the regular season 0-3.
If the defense continues to be a dominant force, and they carry their momentum into the regular season, they will win if the offense is just an average unit. Assuming the Panthers can come out about even in the battle for field position, things are looking good.
And remember, when the Panthers take the field in the swamps of New Jersey week one, there will be a certain number 89 in the lineup. There’s your much sought-after passing game right there, gang.