Their first preseason effort left a good bit to be desired from the Panther faithful, and based on the rumblings that can be heard around Charlotte and the rest of Panther Nation, it's crucial for the Panthers—at least the first team—to make a better impression on Saturday night.
The Dolphins defeated the Jaguars, 12-9, with a touchdown reception by wideout-turned-tight-end Ernest Wilford from Chad Henne proving to be the difference.
Miami, much like Carolina, didn't play particularly stellar football and will be out to improve on their last performance.
The Dolphins made waves in the NFL last year with their use of the Wildcat offense, a scheme that took them from the AFC East cellar with a 1-15 record in 2007 to the playoffs in 2008 with an 11-5 record.
These two teams will meet again in Week 11 at Bank Of America Stadium on the NFL Network Thursday night match-up.
Before their preseason opener, the Panthers broke their huddle with a chant of : "Miami on three," signaling their intent to finish up their season at Super Bowl XLIV, which will be held in Miami.
What to Watch For
The most obvious thing to look for on Saturday will be how the defense adjusts to having been pretty well diced on Monday night. The starting defensive unit did not echo the reports from training camp that a new level of intensity and passion had been injected into the defense with the arrival of Ron Meeks and his new defense.
The defensive line clearly missed Ma'ake Kemoeatu's presence in the middle as the Giants proceeded to run all over the place early and often. There were several times when receivers caught balls and had time to turn and make a move before garnering any sort of interest from Panthers defenders.
The starting offense, outside of DeAngelo Williams, struggled as well, as Jake Delhomme was off target with several of his throws being well off target. Dwayne Jarrett failed to step up in his first action as a starting wide receiver, playing in Steve Smith's place.
Overall, it was an effort that raised concerns across the Panthers fan base. It is important to remember, though, that it was the preseason opener. No Smith, no Jonathan Stewart, no game plan, no advanced play calling, just a way for the coaching staff to evaluate the pieces of the puzzle that will complete the final 53-man roster.
Delhomme and the first team offense will face a different defensive scheme from the Dolphins, who play the 3-4. This is a good thing for the Panthers, as it is nice to go into the regular season with a fresh look at any type of defense an opponent can throw at you.
Look for Mike Goodson's ball protection to be much better. Jim Skipper doesn't play nice with his running backs when they put the ball on the ground, so you have to assume Skip spent a good amount of time in Goodson's ear this week at practice. Goodson will also likely see some time with the first team, as the starters are expected to play about two quarters.
Also keep an eye on the opening defensive series. The defense has worked on closing and tackling in their last week of practice and will come out with a chip on their shoulders after being dogged in the local media all week. Expect more rotation in the defensive tackle positions while Meeks tries to figure out who will start alongside Damione Lewis.
The backup quarterback play will also be important, seeing as how all four quarterbacks on the roster fumbled on Monday night. Word is that the Panthers will keep Hunter Cantwell on the practice squad, so the competition is between Josh McCown and Matt Moore for the second string job.
Perhaps the most intense position battle going on in Carolina right now is for the fourth receiver position. Ryne Robinson, Kenny Moore, Jason Chery, Jason Carter, and Larry Beavers have all impressed at some point in time over the last few weeks, and Moore and Chery played well Monday night at the Meadowlands. This battle could come down to one play at some point in the preseason, so look for these guys to be giving it their all.
The return game hasn't had anyone's name etched into the depth chart in stone at this point, mostly because the Giants offered little opportunity for returning any kicks on Monday night. Beavers had the longest kickoff return of the night with a 24-yarder.
What to Take Away From Saturday
Saturday will be more of a measuring stick for the Panthers than Monday night was, but it is still early in the preseason. Not only that, but I can't reiterate enough the fact that these games are nothing like regular season games.
The teams may spend a practice or two working on some things the opposition may do just to get in the rhythm of preparing for a game. A lot of this is done for the rookies so that they aren't shell-shocked completely when the regular season gets underway.
If there is any improvement from Monday night, then the game should be rendered a success. The battle for the fourth receiver should be intriguing, as the coaches will probably call a pass-heavy play selection once the backup quarterbacks get in the game.
Keep an eye on last week's Panthers Preseason Spotlight, Jeremy Leman. His intensity has carried over from Monday through the week at practice and if he can keep his level of play where it was against the Giants, he could be suiting up on the 13th.
Most importantly, remember that the Panthers will not show the Dolphins anything but the most vanilla of plays and packages. Coach John Fox said after the Giants game that they were very basic in their schemes and play calls because they face the Giants in Week 16, so don't expect anything different as the team goes up against another regular season foe.
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