The Carolina coaching staff had to be pleased with the effort of their players last Saturday night against the New York Giants. Tonight, they’ll be looking for a sustained level of play with hopes off building of their early success. The Carolina Panthers will prowl into Miami to take on the Dolphins tonight with kickoff beginning at 7:30 pm.
Here are five areas that I was impressed with in the Panthers first pre-season game and would like to see continued success with added improvement tonight:
1) Quarterback Play: Jimmy Clausen did not look as bad as the 2010 version. However, at times Clausen still looked lost and held onto the ball too long. I was very impressed by Cam Newton’s pocket presence and confidence, but not so much when he actually threw the ball. Derek Anderson looked like he could be a reliable back-up if needed in a pinch.
Still, I would like to see Clausen to continue cleaning the cob-webs out and forget about 2010, but to be successful, Jimmy has to get rid of the football more quickly. He had some very impressive throws, particularly the frozen-rope laser he threw to Greg Olsen for a touchdown. I was happy that Clausen has put all the negativity from last year behind him and went out there and did the things he did. Hopefully, he can have similar stats tonight, but minus a pick-six.
Newton looked like a definite rookie out there against the Giants. However, he looked very comfortable, relaxed, and someone cocky. You could also tell Newton was having fun. The coaching staff has got to quit the roll-outs to the right because every defense will be expecting that. Newton needs to set his feet and follow through on his delivery and not throw off his back foot so much. Newton also needs to show better accuracy. If Newton is going to be the franchise quarterback, he has to make all the throws, especially the ones that are similar to the over-thrown ball he threw in the endzone to an open Armanti Edwards. I’d like to see Newton have better mechanincs and accuracy tonight against the Dolphins. I will say that he will get all of the first half snaps.
I like that third-stringer, Derek Anderson was able to come in and be a manager. I also liked that he was very attentive to Clausen on the sidelines (while Newton was somewhat aloof at times). I want to continue to see Anderson do exactly what he has done so far.
2. The Return Game: I was extremely impressed with the effort of the Carolina kick returners in the first game. Armanti Edwards had a couple of eye-opening punt returns that exhibited his full potential of athletic ability. This brief foreshadowing of Edwards’ ability definitely has Panther fans wanting to see more from the former Appalachian State mega-star.
Mike Goodson had a good game returning kick-offs as well. He is definitely a solid return man and a valuable weapon for Carolina on special teams as well as in the backfield. I would like to see no fumbles from Goodson tonight, however.
3. Special Teams: The special teams for the Panthers played well all-around and was probably the most impressive aspect of the Panthers performance. Jordan Senn is an absolute beast of a special teams playmaker and should make the squad for that reason alone. The Panthers did an excellent job of getting to the ball on kick-offs and punts and hopefully they will be able to continue to do so tonight.
Olindo Mare definitely helped his cause in winning over Panther fans hearts with his performance last Friday. Mare successfully converted two field-goals, two PATs, and had some touchbacks on his kick-offs.
Needless to say, the status quo of the special teams department would be good to continue.
4. The Receiving Game: Finally, it looks like the Carolina offense actually has receivers on the field. The passing game looked more impressive last Friday than it has in some time. Carolina seems to have multiple options to throw to from Greg Olsen, Jeremy Shockey, Gary Barnidge, Kealoha Pilares, Brandon LaFell, and Armanti Edwards. Even more promising, last Friday’s receiving options did not even include Steve Smith. Smith will make his 2011 Panther pre-season debut tonight in Miami. It will be exciting to see Smith stretch the field while seeing legitimate receving threats at tight-end hit the middle of the field.
5. Defense- Carolina’s young, and somewhat inexperienced, defense played surprisingly well last Friday. James Anderson is an animal, pure and simple. Jordan Senn’s outstanding play on special teams carried over into the defensive realm where he was in on several tackles. Omar Gaither also looked to be settling in nicely to Carolina’s defensive scheme as well.
The defensive tackles went all out and were making the case as to why they should be on the field over their defensive-line teammates. I would expect to see a continual rotation of defensive tackles to ensure that each player gets the needed reps so the coaching staff can get an adequate evaluation of each player’s strengths and overall skill-set.
The young and unknown cornerback corp played surprisingly well against the Giants. Though they were lucky that some balls were overthrown when they were scorched by a Giants’ receiver, the Panthers secondary played pretty well considering. Hopefully, they will prove to be more physical at the line of scrimmage tonight and will be even more impressive against the Dolphin receivers.