The Elevator: Analyzing the Carolina Panthers' Preseason Loss to Miami

Austin PennyAnalyst IAugust 24, 2009

MIAMI - AUGUST 22:  Running back DeAngelo Williams #34 of the Carolina Panthers looks for room to run against the Miami Dolphins during a pre-season game at Land Shark Stadium on August 22, 2009 in Miami, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Panthers 27-17.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

The Carolina Panthers now have two preseason games under their belt, and perhaps a little more of an idea of who is going to make the opening-day roster.

The weather at Land Shark Stadium in Miami was sloppy to say the least at the outset of the game, with rain thoroughly soaking the field and the fans in attendance.  The Panthers' play to start the game was consistent with the weather, going three and out in their first offensive possession and then allowing a six play, 60-yard touchdown drive to start out on defense. 

The starters stepped it up from that point, responding with a nine play, 70-yard drive that ended with a creative 25-yard touchdown run by DeAngelo Williams. 

Jake Delhomme finished five-of-seven for 47 yards.  After two incomplete passes on the opening drive, he completed his next five attempts.

The first team defense would allow nothing more than a field goal during their time on the field, but the tackling was still an issue as receivers often had a chance to catch the ball, turn, and make a move before being met by Panthers defenders.

Here's a look at some of the positives and negatives from Saturday night, via "The Elevator".

Going Up...

/\  DeAngelo Williams - For the second straight game, Williams looked like he has no intentions of slowing down after last year's breakout season.  DeAngelo had the aforementioned 25-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, in which he broke several Dolphins tackles before breaking loose.

/\  Dante Rosario - For seemingly the first time since his game winning catch in last year's season opener in San Diego, Rosario impressed during his time on the field.  After missing a block on Willams' touchdown run, he regrouped and laid a block that helped spring DeAngelo to the endzone.  Rosario also led the team in receiving, catching three passes for 54 yards.

/\  James Anderson - The backup linebacker is heading into his fourth year as a Panther and had a monster game Saturday night.  Anderson had eight total tackles, all in the first half, and was the emotional leader on a defense that was missing its leader, Jon Beason, for most of the night.

/\  Everette Brown - The rookie defensive end tallied his second sack in as many games, blindsiding Chad Henne and causing a fumble early in the second half.  At a sack per game rate, Brown seems like a solid pick so far.  It would be beneficial for Brown to see some extra work with the first team defensive line before the preseason is over, as he may be a viable option at left end when Tyler Brayton moves inside for passing downs.  Perhaps if he would recover a fumble instead of celebrating...

/\  DeCori Birmingham - The Panthers' fourth string running back who impressed last preseason has looked pretty good so far this go-round.  Birmingham carried seven times for 26 yards and a touchdown on Saturday night, numbers that aren't glaringly amazing, but are at the very least a solid audition for the other 31 NFL teams.  Birmingham spent last season on the Panthers' practice squad, but if he keeps playing the way he has, he may find his way onto another roster.

/\  Captain Munnerlyn - Captain showed his punt returning ability Saturday night, taking his first chance to the promised land.  Only problem was, his foot couldn't stay away from the sideline and the ball was placed about 25 yards out.  The main thing to take away from that play was Munnerlyn's breakaway skills in the return game.  There seems to be a logjam at the returner position, and Captain may have done just enough to get a leg up.  Yes, he fumbled, but he did a good job of pretending he recovered it to keep possession for the Panthers.

/\  Tight Ends - The Panthers tight ends caught seven out of the team's 16 pass attempts.  Rosario led the way but Jeff King, Gary Barnidge, and Andrew Davie all had receptions as well.  One element that has been missing from the Panthers offense in the years since Wesley Walls left has been a pass-catching tight end, but it looks as though that trend may be coming to an end.

Going Down...

\/  Defensive line - Still nothing special resonating from the defensive line.  The Wildcat formation was well defended, but the line was unable to establish themselves against the run for the second straight game.  The hole at defensive tackle is as glaring as ever.

\/  Dwayne Jarrett - Earth to Dwayne...For a guy who needs to show a decidedly increased level in ability this year, Jarrett has performed a pretty nice disappearing act so far this preseason.  He had no catches Saturday.

\/  Return fumbles - Munnerlyn, Ryne Robinson, and Larry Beavers all had problems fielding punts on Saturday night.  For a group of guys who's only chance of making the roster may lay in their return abilities, they sure do have butter fingers.

\/  Ryne Robinson - Robinson may be close to falling off the depth chart completely for the Panthers.  Not only has Robinson failed to show anything special this preseason, he made an absent minded mistake on Saturday night, allowing a punt he called a fair catch on to bounce up and right off him, causing a live ball which the Dolphins recovered and eventually put in the end zone for the decisive touchdown.  To top it off, Robinson has been passed by Kenneth Moore at the fourth wide receiver spot.

\/  Josh McCown - McCown didn't do too much to make a case for the second string quarterback spot, and looked very shaky for the second straight game.  McCown went into camp as the more experienced guy sitting at the two spot, but his lack of production may have sealed his fate at the third quarterback position.  McCown has a lot of making up to do.

\/  Health - First Kemo, now Beason.  Pro-bowl starting middle linebacker Jon Beason left Saturday's game with a sprained MCL and could miss four to six weeks.  The good news is that Beason's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said Sunday that he could be ready in time for the season opener. 

All in all, the Panthers made some slight improvements from their performance against the Giants, but the questions and concerns still outweigh the positives.  For the second straight week, we played against an opponent we will see again during the regular season.  Sure, they will be able to get their hands on every game film between now and then, but film doesn't do the same thing that game experience does.

The Panthers come home to play Baltimore this Saturday night, and the rightfully concerned Panther Nation will be able to inspect their team with their own eyes. 

Carolina was 8-0 at home in the regular season last year and will be eager to silence some of their more outspoken critics.

The third preseason game is traditionally a game that sees the starters play into the third quarter, working on their halftime adjustments.  This will be the best chance for fans to see the team that will suit up September 13th when Philadelphia comes knocking.