5 biggest surprises from Carolina Panthers first preseason game

(Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports) Phil Hoskins
(Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports) Phil Hoskins /
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Carolina Panthers
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Carolina Panthers pass coverage/run defense

The Carolina Panthers have one of the youngest defenses in the league and one that is clearly on the rise with all the potential in the world. And after a season in which the team came in at 18th overall, there was hope for a jump in the right direction.

That was certainly the case when it came to the defensive front as a whole and especially against the run. The Panthers held the Colts to only 117 total rushing yards, their leading rusher being rookie quarterback Sam Ehlinger with 30 on the ground.

With plays being broken up in the backfield on a regular basis leading to lost yardage or at least a change of direction that limited the gain thrown in for good measure. This being a pleasant sight as the run defense was not necessarily a place of pride in 2020.

The same cannot be said for the pass defense, however. Whereas the starting corner group of Donte Jackson, Jaycee Horn, and A.J. Bouye are nothing to sniff at, the group behind them struggled mightily.

Stantley Thomas-Oliver was beaten regularly but had a few good plays, whereas Troy Pride Jr. found life difficult and was shaken up on consecutive plays before being carted off with what seemed to be a rather serious leg injury.

While the cornerback group wasn’t the worst in the world, it stood in stark contrast when sandwiched between the stellar linebacker and safety play of the day and was a glaring weakness that was exploited. Something that was quite shocking with the flashes those players showed last season and consistent additions like Rashaan Melvin.

The 310 passing yards given up show that all too well.

Unless there is some major improvement, the Panthers need to cross their finger that the injury bug doesn’t bite again this season.