Many members of Panther Nation may still be suffering from the hangover from Carolina’s second pre-season game against the Miami Dolphins. It was not a pleasant game to watch, particularly following the impressive showing the Panthers had their first game of the preseason against the New York Giants.
The Panthers will visit the Cincinnati Bengals tonight and will be looking to re-gain some of the success they had in Charlotte when the Giants came to town. Here are three things I will be looking for tonight:
1) Will the Real Cam Newton Please Stand Up?- Yes, I understand he is a rookie, but he was the number one draft selection. Newton has automatically been thrust into the role of “Franchise Face” (or smile) but quite honestly his performance looks more like a second stringer. Steve Smith’s availability may help Newton have more success tonight. Who knows, maybe Newton will actually throw a touchdown. Many feel that Newton has a firm grasp on the starting job and it’s easy to see why knowing that Newton will start his second consecutive game and will play three quarters. It is his job to lose. But to gain the confidence of Panther fans, Newton may need to have a 60% completion rating, over 180 yards passing, and at least one touchdown. Heck, let’s even throw in fifty yards rushing and a rushing TD. You do that, Cam, and you’ll go a long way to changing at least my mind.
2) Our Defensive Line Couldn’t Even Put Pressure on a Balloon- The Panther defensive line was nearly non-existent in the game against the Dolphins. Even Chad Henne broke out some runs that reminded me of a young Michael Vick when he played for the Falcons. The Panthers are playing short handed, that is true, but as of now, the confidence in the defensive line has to be at an all-time low. Hopefully, if Greg Hardy can get on the field tonight, Panther fans will have more insight to what their defensive line is capable of.
3) Can the Panthers Convert 3rd Downs?- The Panthers have been absolutely dreadful when it comes to extending offensive drives and keeping the team’s defense on the sideline so they can actually catch their breath. If the Panthers want to be an effective team in 2011, they have to be able to convert 3rd downs better than what they have. Maybe that starts with a blast from the past and relying on the stout horses in the Panthers back-field more than the last game. The offense needs to be more balanced than what it was in the John Fox era, but the coaching staff needs to remember that the strength of the offense is the stable of running backs. The Panthers do not have the weapons to adequately set-up the run with the pass. So, they’re going to have to go back to setting up the pass with the run.