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Saturday, August 30, 2008

v/s Pittsburgh

An uneventful game, other than the Moore injury and a late game surge; the backups certainly lack the pop of the starters, who were notably left out. Backups fought backups to see the team lose on a late field goal.

Jonathan Stewart and Richard Marshall, top backups considered to be starter level, were held out as well. Dante Rosario started the game and was quickly pulled after catching one nice pass (for 21 yards). It was a battle of roster spots - LaBrandon Toefield v/s Decori Birmingham; the backup DBs, 3rd TE.

  • Birmingham won (9 carries 38 yards, v/s Toefield's 13 for 18). He showed better play throughout camp; Toefield didn't look good at all and only had one good game.
  • Ricardo Colclough looked good (and later got a DUI to effectively end his tenure), as did Dante Wesley and CJ Wilson. Wilson's work in short space was very solid, whereas Wesley continued to be a hitting machine and ST power.
  • Gary Barnidge won the 3rd spot, not unexpectedly - 3 catches 33 yards in quick succession before giving way to Chad Upshaw. If Barnidge had been healthy, he would've never had to compete, effectively. But that goes same for Rosario, who could've started if he'd had four games of production. At either rate, while Jeff King showed some bullish strength at points in the Indy game, the team is going to have a lot more options for getting the ball downfield.
  • Matt Moore looked average to bad against Pittsburgh, then got laid out on a blitz. His two double-coverage throws were not a good sign, either. Brett Basanez was efficient and had one deep ball for the game-tying TD, but in busted coverage.
  • Dwayne Jarrett and Dominique Thompson showed good receiving; Jarrett continues to grow.
  • Charles Johnson and Gary Gibson made plays as "starters' on the 2nd defense, showing themselves to be above the others playing. Darwin Walker continues to be solid but not a stand out, concerning given his past starting history.
  • Samie Parker didn't impress as a return man.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Carter IR'd, Other Cuts; 3rd Down

Jason Carter was put on injured reserve after tearing an ACL in the exhibition Saturday. Carter had started to show promise as a return man, and was working with the first units in 3 WR sets with other receivers out.

Cuts started with DE Casper Brinkley, QB Lester Ricard, TE Chris Conklin, and CB Curtis Deloatch. Brinkley, a rookie from South Carolina, may be looked at for the practice squad and was playing as a second string end at times while Tyler Brayton and Charles Johnson alternated at 1st string end.

Deloatch, who played for Carolina at times in 2007, was having a solid showing at CB and special teams, but loses out to a numbers game. Ricardo Colclough has the 4th CB job set, and will probably be a returner as well. CJ Wilson, returning to CB after a year at FS, has been solid as a relief player as well, and is both younger and cheaper than Deloatch.

Conklin was the team's 5th TE and rarely played, while the team has already decided on the players ahead of him. Chad Upshaw and Gary Barnidge will fight for the 3rd TE spot - Barnidge, a 5th round pick, hasn't played due to a gluteal strain; Upshaw has received playing time and looked good in that time. Upshaw, a rookie in 2007, is practice squad eligible, having been on the practice squad for Denver last year after being on the Panthers' squad in preseason that year. Alternately, Barnidge could go to IR.

Ricard received some time in the first preseason game, going 6 for 12, for 85 yards and taking one sack. A large lefty, Ricard doesn't really fit the mold of a practice squad QB, but could stick for developmental reasons.

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3rd down was problematic for the team in 2006, finishing last in converting 3rd down.
This game, despite their immense success, they finished 2 of 11 on third down.

In that included four runs (three under Delhomme). Delhomme was 1-for-4 for conversion with an INT, and Moore 0-3. Delhomme dealt with a tipped ball and another pass defended.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

V/S Washington - Slaughter

It was an abolute rout last night, and a welcome sight. This team went through so much in the last 14 weeks of the 2007 season, so to see swagger and joy were good things.

We all know what happened out there, so I'm going to gloss over a few things that I felt strongly about. Most of the positives beget a mirrored negative.

Positives:
  • Starting backs Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart made plays.
  • Jake Delhomme made plays. His deep ball was there, his throws to the sideline and the out routes were made with tons of zip, and he has his control. Concerns of his Philadelphia game being problematic were unfounded concerns.
  • The defense made plays. They created opportunities for us to win throughout the game.
  • Chris Gamble and Ken Lucas were back and in great form. Richard Marshall, Ricardo Colclough, and CJ Wilson all made solid plays behind them.
  • Colclough and Jason Carter had good days returning kicks.
  • Dwayne Jarrett made some more tough catches. Steve Smith is a madman. While the team is as theoretically deep at WR as ever, Muhammad will be just recovered by the San Diego game, and who knows if DJ Hackett will ever man-up and play with a little pain. We'll need Jarrett plenty against San Diego.

Negatives:

  • Delhomme still makes occasionally bad decisions. The double covered Smith INT was just not a good decision.
  • The backups haven't excelled at RB, which defaults to us keeping Nick Goings, and not a lot else. The team will keep that trio and FB Brad Hoover, but the others haven't been as promising as against Indy.
  • The rout was impressive, but remember that the Panthers didn't control the time of posession, never put together long drives, and made up that greater portion of the score on playmaking. Playmaking is obviously preferential but not as reliable; you want to see sustained drives, whereas the team either broke out or stalled.
  • Clinton Portis didn't play much, and he was able to run on us. The defense looked dominating, but could be worn down if they kept the run game going on us.
  • The OL may have run blocked very well, but pass blocking could've been better. Their DL got plenty of pressure on us, with three sacks and 2 hits in three quarters. Some of it was free blitzing, which means we didn't pick someone up, and some of it was just being beaten.
  • Landon Johnson isn't impressive at all. He looks like good depth but is being outclassed by Na'il Diggs, meaning we picked up a guy for $3 mil a year that'll be chasing down kicks. Of course, the Dan Connor pick even exascerbates this more.
  • Even up 40 points, the team didn't see fit to put Rhys Lloyd on more than kickoffs. John Kasay scored 17 points against Washington, and 18 total in the other two games. Not one of those balls could've been attempted by Lloyd? If we're going to keep two kickers, and one of them's as old as Kasay, it's worth seeing if Lloyd can at least attempt one in a live game.

The team looked crisp, overall. Some solid playmaking by the other parts of the DL is as welcome as seeing Peppers return to solid play. The guys who deserve to be here have separated themselves from the ones who simply want to be involved, and this week those groups will be separated.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Saturday Impressions

  • QB: Moore was a solid #2, fairly accurate. Basanez did well too, that deep ball INT wasn't that big a deal - the WR got out of position. Both guys have some mobility, which is nice for two young guys with this much poise. If either got in, they'd need some wheels, since we'd get blitzed a ton.
  • at FB, Hoover still shows good body control and ability and average pop in blocking. He's heavier, but has a gut in camp which isn't great, but he's never been a strong guy. Fleming had a better day blocking than Hoover did, but he had a fumble, a drop in the passing game, and screwed himself with these.
  • TE: didn't see a ton from them, since we only dressed two. Surprised we didn't do any tackle-eligible. But King showed himself to be adequate. Upshaw was a solid blocker and reached for a key first down too. Barnidge, Rosario were both hurt, which is a shame, because they're more physically talented than King and I'd like to see Rosario take the job.
  • WR: Moose got his, Hackett didn't dress. Jarrett had three nice balls, one a drag route for short distance and two in-traffic balls deeper. He took the hit and got after it each time. Also could've had a deeper ball that sailed out of bounds, but had an offsides penalty that just didn't need to happen. Carter had some trouble fielding punts but caught a nice 20 yarder and showed some burst on two short balls. Travis Taylor caught one, and every time they mentioned him, I remember thinking "wait, we have Travis Taylor?" I was surprised each time he was mentioned.
  • OL: Otah was solid and on the Williams 10 yard run took a guy out of the play about 10 yards to the sideline. If you watch the NFL video on the score page, it's around 1:08. Watch him v/s 77. Awesome. Kalil certainly seemed to make great calls and got to the second level. All in all, I was impressed with the first unit, and the second unit minus Omiyale - not that Omiyale was terrible, but the other four including Hangartner were better. Bridges looked better as a LT than he did. Fonoti played LG on 2nd team, I don't know if that's good or not. Initially I'd say not good, given that it's tough to battle to start at RG if you're not lined up there. Other than that, it was funny watching not-Kris-Jenkins blocking for not-Deshaun-Foster. Any of the 3 vet guards could play 1st team RG, IMO. I don't have concerns about our 1st unit run blocking, but didn't see much pass blocking. Otah kept his guy in front of him for the most part.
  • DL: Peppers did well against a good 1st string OT in Ugoh. Gibson didn't look terribly out of place with the 1s, so maybe he makes it over an ailing Scott. He started over Walker, which has been odd. Hayden on the backup squad looked OK, had a few nice moves and some mistakes. Johnson looked good with the 1s. maybe he sticks as the starter, don't remember seeing Brayton. McClover is what he is - a light guy with one move and speed, and he took away from that with two offsides penalties. Taylor is the 3rd string equivalent, minus 20 lbs and with a little more instinct, making a play and then getting lost.
  • LB: Beason didn't play. Davis made a great move on the run to stuff the RB inside his own 10. Seward was active at MLB. Johnson started, looked OK, kinda crappy in coverage. Backups - Connor had a miscue or two but led the team in tackles, has enough range despite his lack of short range burst to get to the sideline on plays. Anderson is still average, may not make it as a 2nd string WLB if we can keep both Shaw and Connor to back up either spot. Connor blitzed a fair bit and lacks the skill for it. One place where some short-burst speed like Davis' or Beason's is a big plus and Connor's lack of athleticism hurts.
  • S: Holt looked solid as a starter. Godfrey had no mistakes and flies to the ball. Salley, normally the 2nd string SS, was aggressive but can't cover that well. He's still remarkably inexperienced, and missing time to injury will do that (he's been hurt this year, and missed last year). Teal made a good play on an INT, he's still an underdog but may stick. TEs got behind us plenty, but to defend that we were playing a lot of man behind a lot of blitzing.
  • CB: starters were fine, out early. Wesley doesn't look like the favorite to keep the 4 job. Deloatch, Colclough had some good stuff out there. Wilson wasn't bad, either. Hopefully, the #4 guy won't have to play any, but it'd be nice to find the best of this group
  • ST: should've let Lloyd kick a FG or two. Kasay should not be kicking 4-5 FG in a practice game. Baker looked good. We looked OK on punt coverage, but crappy in kick coverage. Not great on returns either.

Overall, we looked like we were crisp to start, and finished sloppily. We won a preseason game on two opportune turnovers by a 2nd string QB that may not be second string for long, based on the play of Lorenzen.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Smith's Behavior Is Nostalgic

Unfortunately, the downside of Steve Smith rears its ugly head again -picture it. An on-field jostle between Smith and Lucas - Smith cutsinside, Lucas is already occupying that space and tries to force Smithback outside. Smith falls, the two tangling. Then go forward - aspecial teams practice now. Players are on the sidelines, Smith jawswith Lucas, and then standing over Lucas, sucker-punches his teammate. Picture Jon Beason pulling Smith off Lucas.

Picture Muhsin Muhammad corraling Smith as he's taken away to the next field. Picture Lucas,bloody and injured. Picture Muhammad all but picking Smith up andhaving him confront Lucas on the training table and supposedly makingup. Picture Muhammad and John Kasay trying to council Smith, away fromthe team, and John Fox talking to his defense about how there "won't beretaliation."Picture Marty Hurney escorting Smith away from the field, undoubtedly tosit down with Jerry Richardson, with the two waiting for Fox to endpractice. Picture Lucas carted off. Nostalgia isn't necessarily a positive. It's literal root meaning is of an old wound. And unfortunately, this brings that old wound back.

There was talk of how Smith had changed - of course, if you remember himwalking off the field in Tennessee because he wasn't getting the ball (Ididn't), you know he hadn't. If you remembered him vowing to never field returns again after the Dallas game, where he was called on in anemergency to help the team out, you know he hadn't. That C on hisjersey, the years of maturity, it turns out, amounted to nothing.