Well Ron Rivera started off his career as a head coach the right way, as his team beat the Giants 20-10. Yes it is preseason, but when you finish last season with only two wins every win, even in the preseason, feels that much better.
There were a lot of differences that I saw last night on this newly coached Panthers team and most of them I liked. So with that, here are a few thoughts I have on last nights game.
— Jimmy Clausen is improving. The second year quarterback came out and played pretty well last night. His second passing play was picked off and returned for a touchdown, giving everyone flashbacks of the dreadful 2010 season. But the young quarterback showed some poise, shook off the bad play and got the Panthers into the endzone two drives later, throwing a beautiful ball to Greg Olsen for a 18-yard touchdown. The pass was one of the best I have seen from Clausen. he stepped up in the pocket and threaded to needle hitting Olsen in stride for the touchdown. It was a great game by any means for Jimmy, but there are signs the young quarterback is improving. He still needs to work on his pocket presence, getting the ball out quicker and stepping up, but for the most part I liked what I saw.
–As for Newton, he was exactly what I expected. There is no doubt that Newton has a huge arm. He showed it on a few plays, including a 36-yard pass to Armanti Edwards. But there was a lot of room for improvement. He was pretty inaccurate completing only 8-19 passes but I expected that from Newton. I don’t think he is ever going to be a guy that completes 30-35 passes. He just won’t. I see him more of a guy that will hover right around the 55-60% completion rate. This offense is going to be constructed around him where there are a ton of deep balls thrown and those just aren’t very high completion passes.
He also needs to work on going through his reads more. When Newton got the Panthers into the redzone in the second quarter, he had two straight incomplete passes and the Panthers had to settle for a field goal. During both of those passes, he dropped back focused on one receiver and tried to force the ball in there. This will be the hardest thing for Newton to learn. You have to have a quick decision making ability and attempt to progress through your reads quickly. He will get better, but it will take some time.
–How about the defense? Playing without five starters including Jon Beason, Chris Gamble and Charles Johnson, the defense for the Panthers held its on against the Giants first string offense. The two defensive tackles, Sione
Fua and Corey Irvin looked great and really helped stop the Giants rushing attack. But my favorite thing was seeing the aggressive defense. The linebackers crowded the line of scrimmage and made it tough for the offensive line to decipher who was blitzing and who wasn’t. Sean McDermott definitley has made his mark on this defense and I like the way it is moving.
— Armanti Edwards. Finally the former Appalachain State quarterback, now wide receiver, has shown some talent. Edwards has been the story line of camp so far and showed why. He had two dazzling punt returns and pulled down a nice catch from Newton in the second quarter. If Edwards can keep progressing he could turn into a great weapon on special teams. The more and more I watch of him he reminds me of Steve Smith. Smith made his name early on as a punt returner, then slowly became the guy he is now. I’m not saying Edwards will become Smith but man some of those returns sure reminded me of No. 89.