The Elevator: Ups and Downs From The Carolina Panthers Preseason Opener

Austin PennyAnalyst IAugust 18, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 17:  Jason Chery #18 of the Carolina Panthers runs the ball past Vince Anderson #45 of the New York Giants enroute to a game tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter on August 17, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defeated the Panthers 24-17.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Football is back in the air in Carolina and the Panthers have their first preseason game under their belt. 

The starting offense played three series of mediocre football while the defense raised a bit of a concerned eyebrow with their play.

With that being said, this is the first preseason game of the year.  Come September 13, this game won't matter.  The most important thing for the Panthers was getting their guys on a live playing field and playing against an opposing team that didn't have the same logo on their helmets.

The first preseason game is used to shake rust off of the veterans, rekindle the chemistry on the front lines, and get some of the young guys battling for a roster spot with some quality playing time under the lights.

There is, however, good fodder for a breakdown and a chance to find some areas where the team can improve heading into their second preseason game Saturday in Miami.

Let's take a look at some of the positives and negatives of last night's last second 24-17 loss to the Giants via 'The Elevator'.

Going Up...

/\  DeAngelo Williams.  DeAngelo looked solid in his first preseason action, carrying the ball for six times and 29 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.  He hit his gaps nicely and doesn't look like he's missed a step from last year.

/\  Mike Goodson.  Goodson's solid camp carried over to live action as he rushed for 43 yards and a touchdown on just six carries.  He also caught two balls for 16 yards.  He did have two fumbles, one of which he lost, but you have to believe running backs coach Jim Skipper will be drilling him to death this week on taking care of the ball. 

The personal foul penalty was a one-time deal that was a result of Goodson being over-ecstatic about reaching the endzone for the first time in his career.  If Goodson continues this pace, the Panthers could have a three-headed monster in the backfield this season.

/\  Second team receivers.  Kenneth Moore and Jason Chery combined for 62 of the Panthers' 150 total passing yards in a game where twelve different players caught passes.  Moore has impressed at camp and continued to do so Monday night. 

He has caught the eye of Jake Delhomme as well, as the starting quarterback looked Moore's way in three of the team's first four third down situations.  Chery's catch and run for 31 yards with under a minute to go tied the game and would have forced overtime if not for the bizarre closing seconds.

/\  Jason Baker.  The always-consistent punter showed no rust in his first live action of the season.  Baker punted seven times and averaged 44.6 yards per punt.  The only return of substance was the first of the night, which the Giants' Mario Manningham returned for 21 yards.  The other six returns totaled 19 yards.

/\  Jeremy Leman.  If you watched any of the second half, you certainly saw plenty of Leman.  It seemed as though he was playing possessed, laying the wood on several Giants and finishing with seven total tackles. 

His body language showed intensity, and there were a few times that the ESPN mics on the field picked up a shriek from the young linebacker. Check out more on Jeremy Leman in the Panthers Preseason Spotlight.


Going Down...

\/  Quarterback play.  None of the Panthers' four quarterbacks were overly impressive in the team's opener.  Delhomme was inaccurate on a few throws and his yards came mostly from his receivers running after the catch. 

All four quarterbacks fumbled on a sack, with McCown, Moore, and Cantwell all losing fumbles.  Cantwell put the ball in the endzone with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter, but then coughed up the game-winning fumble on the last play of the game.  Overall, a poor effort for the quarterbacks.

\/  Dwayne Jarrett.  Jarrett failed to impress in his first action as a starting wide receiver.  With Steve Smith out, Jarrett figured to play a big part in the Panthers' receiving game. 

However, he was unable to separate himself from the smaller corners he was matched up against, and misread a pass from Delhomme that nearly led to an interception.  His lone grab was a three yard gain on third down that saw him pushed out of bounds well short of the first down marker.

\/  Defensive tackles.  Unless the level of play in the middle of the Panthers' defensive line improves considerably, teams will run all over them.  Nick Hayden is clearly not ready to be a starting defensive tackle in the NFL, and Damione Lewis struggled trying to handle the bulk of the work on the line. 

If it was in doubt that the Panthers needed to find a way to bring in a veteran-type tackle, it is obvious now.

\/  Secondary.  The secondary played bystander for much of the game.  Chris Gamble got absolutely trucked by Ahmad Bradshaw on the game's opening score, and there were several missed tackles on receivers at the point of reception. 

Rookie Sherrod Martin looked lost a few times and paid for it.  However, it's tough to pin the problem on one individual because it looked as though the Giants did pretty much what they wanted, especially in the first half. 


Other Notes

Everette Brown notched a sack in his first NFL action and showed some impressive pass-rush moves.  With some development, we could see Julius Peppers and Brown at the end positions on third down at some point this season.

Look for Jamall Lee to get more action against Miami.  Lee only had two carries for two yards in the game. 

Nothing spectacular in the return game Monday night.  The longest kick return of the night was a 24-yarder by Larry Beavers.  The lone punt return was taken for three yards by Beavers.  Don't expect to see any depth chart changes until after some solid reps by everyone in the running for the spot. 

Quinton Teal provided a solid effort with five tackles, half a sack, and an interception. 


Up Next

The Panthers have a short week before heading to Miami for a Saturday night date with the Dolphins.  The team will have a day off Tuesday and will head back to Spartanburg on Wednesday and Thursday to conclude their training camp.  The game Saturday night is at 7:30pm.

This is not the time for Panther Nation to reach for their panic buttons.  This is the preseason, and the first preseason game at that.  If we see the type of struggles we saw last night in the same magnitude come September, then maybe. 

Let's see how the team adjusts from one game to the next and how they progress throughout the preseason before we jump to conclusions.