The first team offenses for both teams played the first half then gave way to the 2′s and 3′s in the second half in Thursday night’s preseason action between the two teams. They had been practicing together for a couple of day leading up to the contest.
The offensive line for the Panthers looked surprisingly good in pass-protection, which could mean a long season for Chip Kelly’s Eagles defense. Nonetheless, Cam Newton showed great pocket presence as he waited until his target was open or he had to bail, one. When he scrambled, he was still looking to throw.
It appears Newton will be used a LOT less in the rushing attack while Mike Shula, the promoted Offensive Coordinator, seemed to lean more heavily on a traditional power-running attack. Nothing fancy – nothing in the 2nd preseason game ever IS – but the team moved the ball effectively on the ground through much of the game.
A lot of little, rinky-dink 5-yard variety penalties were what made sustaining drives difficult tonight. That, and another lukewarm performance from backup QB Derek Anderson.
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The one really bright spot in the loss was that I’m seeing a re-emergence of WR David Gettis. His size puts him at an advantage to begin with, and he was showing some good form, hands, and route-running in the second half as he was running with the 2′s. In fact, it was apparent that Derek Anderson was locking in on Gettis, who started drawing double coverage, he was playing so well.
I’m excited to see this kid get healthy again and see what he can do. If he’s back at full-force once he shakes the rust off, he could push for the WR2 spot opposite Steve Smith.
Brandon Lafell made a couple of nice catches in the first half. He seems at his best running precise, intermediate routes where timing is important. 10-yard outs and hitches seem to be his strength after playing and practicing with Cam the past few years. He’s the safest bet for WR2 on Opening Day, but Gettis sure does have the upside that LaFell lacks.
This could get real interesting to see play out. My own bet is that, if Gettis continues to progress the way I’ve seen the first two preseason games, he could (and should) wind up starting on the outside. His physical tools put other WRs on the team to shame (besides Smitty) and he’s capable of making big plays that the others haven’t shown yet.
Cam led the NFL in QB hits with over 160 of them – and by a very, very large margin. Much of that was due to his leading the Panthers in rushing in 2012, and that looks like it’s not going to happen this year if the first two preseason games are any clue. I don’t think he’s run once either game, but could’ve hand a short scramble when I went to the door to pay for my Jimmy John’s bacon sandwich. Dunno.
Point being that OC Shula obviously wants to protect Cam from excessive hits on “The Franchise” and has instructed Mr. Newton multiple times on his wishes, with Ron Rivera’s blessing as well, no doubt. I think in 2013, we’ll see Cam look to pass first, second, third, scramble wide and pass fourth, then lastly run for what he can get and avoid contact overall.
I am not seeing the Read-Option (Holy Samolee, Batman…I sure ranted about Chud’s obsession with that last season) thank goodness, and more traditional play-action stuff. Ultimately, I don’t think Cam’s gonna be a top-5 fantasy football QB this year because of this, so draft accordingly. I’ll be surprised if he’s much over 3,500 yds 20 TDs 14 INTs, similar to last year’s passing stats unless Gettis can become a real threat again.
400 yards rushing and 6 TDs there will probably be more like it. They’ll use Tolbert at the goal line more and some play fakes there, too.
As for the rookie DTs, I didn’t see a huge impact on the game from them, largely because of youth and inexperience and Star Lotulelei was often double-teamed. Kawann Short played with the twos in the second half. Plus, Chip Kelly has a unique approach to offense but the Panther LBs demonstrated why they are so good. Kuechly had his usual smackdowns and Thomas Davis had some nice stand-ups and gang tackles for short gains.
The secondary looked good as well – it was more of Mike Vick’s escapability to buy time/run to move the chains that led to the Eagles outlasting the Panthers…and D. Anderson’s mediocre showing in the second half, unable to rally the offense.
Not much at all from Ted Ginn, Jr. although he had 2 catches for 39 yards. Gettis stole the show with 5 for 82 yards.
Special teams still had issues with fumbles and coverage, but Eagles’ returners are talented, so some of that I can put up with.
Game three is the one where the coaches get serious about whittling down the rosters due to looming NFL-dictated cuts…first to 70, then to 53. That’s where many jobs are won or lost. Getting down to crunch time for guys like Dominic Hixon to make their presence known or see the waiver wire, despite the Gettleman connection. Same with Kealoha Pilares perhaps, depending on how the team values Ginn. Ginn may not make the team and Joe Adams is on the outside looking in, quietly praying for someone to get a nagging injury so he can redeem himself.
Unclear as yet as to who might be on the edge here, but games three and four should seal their fates.