Carolina Panthers Run Out of Gas Against Mid-Grade Baltimore Ravens

Eric QuackenbushSenior Analyst IAugust 30, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 29: Runnng back Willis McGahee #23 of the Baltimore Ravens rushes against the Carolina Panthers during their preseason game at Bank of America Stadium on August 29, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
For the third straight week, the Panthers have still not found solutions to problems that are forcing them to come up short against teams that they were as good as a year ago.

The most glaring of problems is penalties. Nine penalties for a combined loss of 70 yards. Stupid mistakes like facemask grabbing, false starts, and lining up incorrectly. Things that should be reviewed and corrected.

Another problem for the offense is converting on third downs. Against the Ravens, the Panthers were unable to convert in seven third-down situations.

The next issue that is equally as bad, is the defense's inability to make a tackle. If this was touch football, they might be looking pretty good. Ultimately what I see is an overpaid, underperforming defensive unit.

Out of everything that happened there was one improvement in the starting defense. Julius Peppers added an assist and a quarterback hurry to his glimmering preseason record of one solo tackle. So far rookie defensive end Everette Brown has outperformed the overpaid, overrated starter.

Some of you may not know this, others might. I was really hoping that Peppers would be released during the offseason. This team needs a lot of help in a lot of areas, and so far Pep is proving himself to be a part of the problem.

I still feel the Panthers should have parted ways with this Prima-Donna and I am still very skeptical of his work ethic for the regular season.

Overall the defense looked ridiculous and the defensive secondary had major problems defending the receivers and tight ends. The Ravens also were able to run all over the linemen and linebackers, thus screaming even more the need for a run-stuffer like Ma'ake Kemoeatu.

Another glaring problem is the offensive line's inability to protect the quarterback, allowing Delhomme to be sacked twice Saturday night. The offensive line has also been having a difficult time of opening holes for the running game.

Moving away from the poor performances last night, there was some good things happening on the field.

In all, quarterback Jake Delhomme has yet to throw an interception this preseason. Against the Ravens he went 11-for-16 and 180 yards, for a rating of 106.2.

It was also nice seeing Steve Smith get some time on the field in his first preseason game since bruising a bone in his shoulder.

The receiving corps looked a lot better last night, especially rookie wideout Kenneth Moore. Moore played as the third receiver last night, and rivaled both Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith, catching three out of four passes for 40 yards. He averaged 13.3 yards after catch.

Another interesting and promising development has been from rookie running back Mike Goodson. Not only did he have 11 carries for 52 yards last night, but he also caught all three passes for 26 yards; averaging 8.7 yards after catch.

A lot has been said that to make room under the salary cap and on the roster, that a receiver should be cut and Goodson should be elevated to the third or "slot" receiver position. If you remember, utilizing Goodson as a slot receiver had been discussed earlier in training camp by the Panthers, and that could very well come to fruition.
With the uncertainty of fellow running back Jonathan Stewart's sore Achilles' the Panthers are probably looking more at using him as a running back behind DeAngelo Williams and using Goodson as a receiving option out of the backfield.

Goodson also had a nice night with kickoff returns, running four returns for 77 yards. His longest return on the night was for 27 yards.

Aside from the offensive line miscues, the tight ends, receivers, and running backs look good. The quarterback position has been a little shaky, but last night it looked a little better.

I'm still uncertain of Josh McCown, and I still feel that Matt Moore and Hunter Cantwell should be vying for the second quarterback position as well, but given the amount of time the starting lineup played last night, saying McCown is a clear-cut choice to be the No. 2 quarterback would be quite unfair to Moore and Cantwell. Both Moore and Cantwell should see considerable playing time against Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback Dante Wesley made the lone interception of the game for no return, and Tyler Brayton recorded the team's only sack.

A very disappointing performance overall, by a team that's supposed to have a major advantage, returning 20-of-22 starters from last year.

Looking at my Panthers through rose-colored glasses...the absences of Jon Beason, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Charles Godfrey, C.J. Davis, and Thomas Davis had a great impact on the outcome and lack of performance of this game.

The Panthers play host to defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh on Thursday night. While I'd like to say the Panthers will give the Steelers a good fight, I remain skeptical but optimistic. The backups seem to be playing better than the starters at this point.

Maybe I'll tempt fate and sneak a peek at how the Panthers fare against the "Stellars" in a Madden 2010 simulation.