Monday night's game at the Giants was actually one of the more exciting games for the first week of preseason.
The Panthers played well in some areas, while looking quite rusty in others. However, in the first preseason game that is to be expected, especially when the team is using its second and third string players throughout most of the game.
Not participating Monday night were running back Jonathan Stewart (Achilles' tendon), wide receiver Steve Smith (shoulder), linebackers Thomas Davis (knee) and Landon Johnson (knee), safety Nate Salley (knee), and guard C.J. Davis (groin).
Some questions have been asked in regard to the security of Salley's and both Johnsons' jobs, as all three have misssed a lot of time with injuries. I say give them another week and hopefully they'll be ready to go for Saturday evening's game at Miami.
Quarterback Jake Delhomme got off to a rough start, taking the Panthers to a three-and-out in their first drive and fumbling the ball on a sack in the second drive. Luck was on Carolina's side though, as Jordan Gross recovered the loose ball for the Panthers.
After the first two series, Delhomme began to settle in, completing three of his next four pass attempts, including a 17-yard, 3rd-and-9 pass to receiver Kenneth Moore. Delhomme finished his night going 5-for-9 for 38 yards, with a passer rating of 66.
"As an offense, it was great to get out there and get some work," said Delhomme. "We didn't start as fast as we would have liked but we did some nice things. We have a lot of work to do and a long way to go to get where we need to be."
Between backup quarterbacks Matt Moore and Josh McCown, Moore had the better showing, going 4-for-7 for 43 yards and no interceptions, for a rating of 75.3.
Josh McCown statistically had the worst night, going 3-for-6 for 26 yards, threw an interception, and ended the night with a rating of 22.2.
The offensive line definitely needs to get a little faster and protect the quarterback better, as it allowed each of the four quarterbacks to be sacked once.
Surprisingly enough, it was undrafted rookie quarterback Hunter Cantwell who had both the best night and the worst night among his quarterback counterparts.
Cantwell finished with a QB rating of 118.2, going 4-for-8 for 67 yards. He averaged 8.4 yards per pass completion, and he threw Carolina's only touchdown pass to rookie receiver Jason Chery, which was followed up by a successful two-point conversion pass to rookie tight end Andrew Davie a minute later.
However, on the offense's last drive, it was Cantwell who sealed the Panthers' fate with a loss when his pass was deflected into the hands of Giants' defensive end Tommie Hill, who ran it back 18 yards for the Giants' tie-breaking score.
The tight ends looked decent Monday night. I was most impressed by tight end Gary Barnidge. If he keeps showing up like he did last night, there's no doubt he will be the No. 1 tight end by regular season.
Dante Rosario is looking more and more like the odd man out, since he's scrappy in size, doesn't block well, and shows up in spurts, making inconsistent plays.
In the second quarter, the Panthers turned the ball over three times in four drives, with two fumbles, while the Giants' Stoney Brackett picked off Josh McCown on one drive. The third turnover proved costly as Giants running back Danny Ware took a screen pass on a 36-yard sprint, where he plowed through the defense and over defensive back Chris Gamble for the score.
The biggest surprise of the evening probably came from Panthers' linebacker James Anderson, who started in place of the injured Thomas Davis. Not only did Anderson get a sack on Giants' quarterback David Carr, he also blocked a Jeff Feagles punt at the Giants' 14-yard line.
Feagles swatted the ball into the end zone for a safety, giving Carolina it's only two points of the first half.
It seemed as though the longer the Panthers were on the field, the better they played.
In the second half both teams were settled in, and playing on a more even keel than the first half.
Three-and-a-half minutes into the third quarter, the Panthers came roaring back on defense, when defensive end Charles Johnson flushed Giants quarterback Andre Woodson out of the pocket, forcing Woodson to make an errant pass into the hands of defensive back Quinton Teal.
Teal ran the interception 21 yards to the Giants 30-yard-line, where running back Mike Goodson took over, picking up 16 yards on a left-side pitchout from Matt Moore, then sprinted the final 14 yards to the left side after shaking loose from containment in the backfield.
Goodson's score brought the Panthers to within five points of the Giants, at 14-9. One bone-headed mistake by Goodson was drawing a 15-yard taunting penalty after the score, when he made a slashing motion across his throat. Fortunately, the penalty was assessed on the kickoff.
"I was told by Skip (assistant head coach/running backs Jim Skipper) not to do that anymore," Goodson said.
Goodson's night was comparable to that of the Panthers. He had a couple fumbles, but he also had some nice plays mixed in there as well. He'll learn from his mistakes, and build on his successes.
"He's a work in progress," said running back DeAngelo Williams. "That's all rookies when they come into the league. He definitely has a lot of potential. I like the way he hit the corner and took it into the end zone. But we've got to work on his celebration."
After a shaky start in the first half, the Panthers defense settled down, forcing four three-and-outs in eight possessions and holding the Giants' offense to a field goal in the second half.
Rookie defensive end Everette Brown had a good showing coming into this game as the Panthers' third defensive end on the depth chart.
In the third quarter, Brown picked up his first preseason sack, when he bull-rushed Giants left tackle Will Beatty, then ran around him for the blindside drop of Giants' quarterback Andre Woodson.
Rookies Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Goodson handled the opening punt and kickoff returns—Goodson on kickoff returns, Munnerlyn on punt returns. Both guys had decent returns, but nothing spectacular.
Middle linebacker Dan Connor led Carolina in stops with eight, while Jeremy Leman followed up with seven in the second half.
There's also a better chance that running back DeCori Birmingham finds himself on the 53-man roster for the first time in his career as a Panther, after his solid performance last night.
I didn't see too much from rookie fullback Tony Fiammetta, as his play was limited, nor did I see too much from Sherrod Martin. As for Marlon Favorite, he looked pretty good last night.
I have a feeling that Cantwell found his way into the Panthers depth chart for another week due to that excellent two-minute drill complete with a touchdown pass to a rookie receiver and a two-point conversion to a rookie tight end.
All in all, it was a good game with an exciting finish. As I said last night, I will continue to keep an eye on Cantwell...I think it would be in Delhomme's best interest to do the same.
Up next, the Panthers travel to Landshark Stadium to play the Miami Dolphins on Saturday evening.
Eric also writes for Panther Coalition.com. Check out his weekly pregame analysis every Thursday during the season.
Eric also does a live 60 to 90 minute pregame broadcast on game days through BlogTalkRadio. The gameday link can be found on the main page in the above link.
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