Sunday, August 30, 2009

Back away from the ledge...seriously

Fact: The Carolina Panthers are 0-3 in the pre-season.

Fact: The Panthers went into this season thinking they would have 21 of their 22 starters back from a 12-4 NFC South Championship team.

What does it all mean?

OK, taking it from the top. Exhibition anything results are meaningless (except to the guys that actually want to win). Pre-season wins don't carry over into the regular season. Make the mistakes in the exhibitions, clean it up before the regular season begins, and move forward.

The Panthers were missing 5 of their 21 returning starters against the Ravens, 6 if you count RB Jonathan Stewart. The return of WR Steve Smith was a big lift (I thought), from the standpoint that he is close to starting the season. Missing guys like LB Jon Beason, LB Thomas Davis, S Charles Godfrey and DT Maake Kemoeatu on defense is huge. The guys that played performed admirably, but there are definite deficiencies to be fixed. The glaring weakness is the DT post. We've been saying it all camp long, but the Panthers need assistance there, and they need it in a hurry. Just 1 more pre-season game remains, and the starters will see very limited action against Pittsburgh on Thursday. A new space-eating DT is needed to help the linebackers out (by freeing them up to make plays, rather than take on offensive lineman trying to plow the road ahead). Pass coverage was "shoddy at times," according to Head Coach John Fox. Perhaps another sign of still elarning the coverage schemes. Teams will begin making roster cuts this week (Carolina included), so the waiver wire search will commence in earnest.

Repeating what was said in the dressing room after the 17-13 loss to Baltimore, the defense was unhappy that they tackled poorly (which they did). Props to DT Damione Lewis, for addressing all the questions post-game. He admits the defense is still trying to learn to "just play" the new schemes of first year Defensive Coordinator Ron Meeks. They know the schemes, but they are still thinking, rather than reading and reacting within the confines of that system. Basically, it's paralysis by analysis--a nightmare for a defense. Lewis is frustrated that the defense is still trying to figure things out (so to speak), but he did tell me that he is confident they will get to that comfort point sooner, rather than later.

They have to. The season begins 2 weeks from today.

Mike Solarte

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