It’s just preseason.
That’s what everyone is saying. We didn’t gameplan. We ran vanilla plays. We had injuries.
Sure. That’s all true. And really, does it matter what your record is in the preseason? Preseason is a time to make sure you get a good look at the makeup of your team; your depth; your offensive sets. It’s a live situation for you to tweak and see who has what it takes and who doesn’t.
I don’t get too worked up over preseason games. Some people do.
I know that the Panthers in particular work on certain sets, certain plays to see how guys react. They want to see how a guy fails so that they’ll be ready for it during the season. They want to see how a guy performs when the lights are on and he’s on center stage.
So while the results of the game aren’t really of consequence, you look at how guys perform in certain circumstances and then determine where you are.
The Panthers offense seemed to be behind the 8-ball all night with false start penalties, putting them in 1-15 (or longer) situations. That forces Shula (and Newton) to try to force longer throws and plays that will net them greater yardage.
They also had a few plays where DeAngelo Williams, or whomever the running back was at the time, was tackled behind the line of scrimmage. With their shortage of fullbacks on the roster due to injury, the running backs often ran out of a single formation with no lead blocker. This proved to be one of the reasons why the Panthers’ running game got off to a slow start last season, as the backs had no holes to run through, and no time to get past the line of scrimmage before a defender was in their face. The Panthers, historically, have run better out of a set that has a lead blocking FB. That’ll be something to watch as the regular season unfolds.
Additionally, the Panthers had a hard time keeping the Eagles defenders out of the backfield on passing plays, forcing Cam Newton to try to gun passes to his receivers, resulting in harder-thrown, less-accurate passes.
The Panthers were held without a touchdown in a preseason game for the first time since 2010.
“When you are playing a fast-strike offense that can put points on the board, you can’t kick field goals. You have to score touchdowns,” head coach Ron Rivera said to Panthers.com after the game. “That wasn’t good enough.”
Defensively, the Panthers admitted that they didn’t gameplan too much for Chip Kelly’s uptempo offense. It showed. The Panthers played a brand of bend-but-don’t-break defense that only gave up 14 points, which is commendable I suppose, but it seemed as if the Eagles could have scored on several occasions had they not turned the ball over on bad throws or fumbles.
There wasn’t a lot of pressure on the QB, and the Eagles seemed to get the ball out of the QBs hands pretty quickly — something the Panthers might want to try once in a while.
On the bright side, David Gettis looked remarkably sharp and seems to have really put forth a strong argument as to staying on this roster. It’ll be interesting to see how many receivers the team keeps. We still haven’t gotten a look at former Giant Dominik Hixon, however, it may not matter if Gettis continues to play the way he did on Thursday night.
“I’m very excited for David,” Rivera said. “He stepped up today and played a very good football game. I told the players, I thought it was a very inspirational effort he gave.
“He’s putting pressure on a lot of guys. David is doing the things that he showed earlier in his career. I’m very happy for him.”
Josh Norman got another pick, although it was on a jump-ball late in the first half. Still, gotta love that he actually caught it as opposed to just knocking it down.
Graham Gano had another strong night kicking, and seemingly has locked-up the Panthers’ kicker / kickoff job.
Rivera’s end of the first half playcalling and situation management again came into question, giving the Eagles another shot to score with about a minute left on the clock. That’s been my biggest criticism of Rivera, that he and this staff seem to make very poor judgement during late game, short time left situations. I haven’t seen anything yet to prove to me that has changed.
Next up is the World Champion Baltimore Ravens, in what is the biggest test for the Panthers yet. The starters will likely play into the second half, and although the Ravens have lost some key contributors from their Super Bowl team, they are still a formidable opponent.