Well, the Carolina Panthers are now 0-2. Yup, another year, another losing record, but this is the year of no excuses, or so it was supposed to be. Cam Newton was supposed to be poised to lead the team to the playoffs, the Panthers were supposed to be a massive threat on defense, and Ron Rivera and Mike Shula were supposed to get their act together. There were supposed to be no excuses on offense, defense and the coaching staff. Now I believe that the Panthers are a threat on defense and Newton is showing growth as a leader, but the coaching staff is a disaster. Now before I get to Rivera and Shula’s decisions here are my thoughts on the rest of the game.
Cam started off slow, very slow. His passing was not accurate, whether he overthrew or underthrew his target. Now all of this wasn’t his fault, the Panthers offensive line wasn’t exactly on point in their showing against the Bills, but then again, who thought they would be?
The unit again exceeded my low expectations that I had for the them, even with some extremely lackluster plays. Some of those plays resulted in six sacks from the Bills defensive line and an interception thrown while Cam was under duress. Those mistakes are unacceptable. Byron Bell really needs to step up at right tackle for the Panthers to be productive.
While Travelle Wharton and Chris Scott are quietly impressing, they aren’t the best offensive lineman but they do provide a definite push in the middle, a push that is much needed, but back to Cam. In the second quarter he started getting back into the groove, finding Greg Olsen for a key half ending touchdown. All in all I thought he played decently. Not great, not awful, just decent.
The receiving core opened up a bit as well. As much as I hate saying, Brandon LaFell may have lost his starting spot to Ted Ginn Jr. Ginn had an excellent game against the Bills racking up three receptions, 62 yards and one TD, averaging 20.7 yards per reception. Along with Ginn, Steve Smith and Olsen also produced some good numbers. But that isn’t good enough. Training Camp “standout” Armanti Edwards had no receptions on the day and LaFell, who did have four receptions only totaled 13 yards. To be productive the Panthers need to find more options in the receiving unit and the players need to keep a hold of the ball (looking at you LaFell).
DeAngelo Williams was not much of a factor today, only breaking off a few good runs in the first half. Again, to be productive the Panthers need to utilize every option they have on offense. We all know the Panthers have great players and can put amazing numbers up on the boards, it just all comes down to game play and how the coaching staff utilizes them.
The defense again showed us the caliber at which they can play, which is extremely high. Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei completely disrupted the Bills offensive line along with Frank Alexander, Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy showing their stuff. So the line once again showed why they deserve the self-proclaimed name Monsterz- Inc.
Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis again played extremely well and it was Jon Beason who was making rookie mistakes. He seemed slow off the snap and sometimes lost on the football field, but I trust that it will all come back in time. Kuechly had one mistake that honestly can be repented for, his play in other games and his interception make up for the pass interference call.
The secondary again proved to be the weakest link on the defense and only second worst on the team next to the offensive line. Open field passes and bad communication was the name of the game for the secondary. Things aren’t exactly bright looking forward either. Starting cornerback Josh Thomas and free safety Charles Godfrey are both out for long periods of time suffering from injuries during the game, a concussion and an Achilles injury respectively.
Quintin Mikell also suffered a right knee sprain but should likely be back later in the week. I’m guessing that Drayton Florence is looking like a mighty fine player right now.
I have been defending Ron Rivera for the past two years, expecting things to get better. Well things aren’t exactly looking better. In fact things are downright bleak and the main reason for that is Rivera. I hate seeing the Panthers pull ahead by a lead, a small lead but a lead, and fall apart in the last few minutes.
In Buffalo, it took only seconds. We saw it against Seattle on two occasions, Atlanta, Dallas, Tampa Bay and now Buffalo. This time Rivera opted out of going for a 4th-and-1 and instead chose to kick a field goal. Now while I would be fine with scoring, it’s the three run calls that annoy me. Rivera again made a smart move by running the ball, forcing the Bills to use all three of their timeouts, but running a quick slant or crossing route would have sufficed. When Rivera says we will be more explosive, I struggle to see that the end product on the field was explosive.
The Panthers have lost yet another game, but in the end you, the Cat Crave readers have won! Yes, you have won for yours truly is now on Twitter. You can follow me @TonySchnikes to keep up with all things Panthers and Tony Cardwell.
Speaking of Twitter, I hope everyone has looked into Tide’s initiative, the Team Color Campaign. You can check in with Greg Olsen, @gregolsen88 on Twitter, for exclusive looks into the locker room, the families, and friends of all Panthers players. You can also tweet yourself in Panthers colors using #ourcolors to let everyone know your Panther pride. As a sidebar, I will be in attendance at the Panthers-Giants game next Sunday, and you can bet your sweet behind that I will be tweeting everything, the tailgate, the stadium and the game using #ourcolors. You can find all that and more if you follow me on Twitter @TonySchnikes!