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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Post-Pittsburgh Thoughts

What an awful game offensively. I know, nothing in a 19-3 preseason game four is going to be that pretty, but Carolina did very little offensively all preseason. I can understand part of it - as I can seeing no starters out there -

As for starters, the entire first team defense minus the DTs sat. All four of the potential starting DTs did play, pairing Louis Leonard and Ed Johnson, versus Tank Tyler and surprising riser Derek Landri, each pair working through the third quarter. If I had to guess, it's Leonard and Johnson starting, but if all four are active it won't matter, they'll rotate. Of that group expected to make it, Tyler was hoped to start; Corvey Irvin was counted on in the top four. Neither hope accumulated.

Irvin played a good part of the 3rd Quarter in at defensive end, a mismatch for him apparently made to allow him to be on the field. Meanwhile, at that point, hopeful practice squadder DT Andre Neblett was out there, giving up less ground than former third rounder Irvin. For whatever reason, Irvin just physically isn't there yet.

On O, Brandon Lafell didn't play at WR, while Dwayne Jarrett was seen trying to get under a deep ball in the third quarter. That apparently settles that question - so if Jarrett isn't starting, the next question is whether he sticks. Kenny Moore played late in the game, and is in deeper danger than Jarrett, with Charly Martin having made a convincing special teams argument and David Gettis and Armanti Edwards both flashing skill.

The only offensive starters to play were Geoff Schwartz at RT (where he'll apparently open the season as Jeff Otah is slow to return), Mackenzie Bernadeau (starter at RG for now) at center, and Tony Fiammetta at FB.

Backup FB Rashawn Jackson didn't play due to injury. Will he make the practice squad? Probably, if he can be healthy. In the meantime, pinball back Josh Vaughn had to play in his place at backup FB, with Fiammetta being pulled early. Since Dante Rosario had come out of the game, and essentially plays enough snaps to be considered a starter (he played about half of the team's offensive snaps last year, and led the team in Tight End yards/receptions), so no reason to use him there.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh had Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller, and others out there far too long on offense; then, apparent starter Byron Leftwich (thanks to the Roethlisberger suspension) hurt his knee. Pittsburgh even had ace safety Troy Polamalu out there, and Rosario had a great grab over him.

Undaunted by the far-out-matched, out-talented matchups, the Panthers didn't let up early, forcing three and outs against the first team Steelers offense the first series - and scoring sacks (Greg Hardy, Derek Landri) versus a first string line. Pittsburgh eventually built a lead - running behind starter Rashard Mendenhall far too long against guys who probably won't have jobs with Carolina in a few days, then giving way to Mewelde Moore, a former starter for Minnessota.

Meanwhile, Hunter Cantwell barely generated anything, going an efficient but ineffective 6/9 for 36 yards. Tony Pike was 10/18 for 44. In comparison, the most interesting slinger was Armanti Edwards, who took wildcat snaps on plays that generally did nothing - but looked fun. Two fast, accurate passes from the lefty were thrown, with one connecting for six yards and one going incomplete, and the running was nothing at all - two runs, the longest of which lost a yard (followed by a FG attempt by John Kasay that hit the goalpost, a time you can definitely say the yard would've made a difference). Handoffs were no better.

But, it was fun. The polarizing Edwards actually looked solid as a receiver, and OK at his chance as a kick returner. The punt return job looks to be Captain Munnerlyn, the kick return job is Tyrell Sutton or possibly Mike Goodson, and none of the three logged significant time at the task in preseason. Maybe one day soon, that's Edwards' job, but not for now.

Based on what I saw of a dreadful 2nd string offensive line, Garry Williams might get another shot, but Rob Petitti might only be saved by the Otah injury for now. Duke Robinson hasn't improved from early camp, where he impressed, but suddenly now stands as just a guy - maybe next year, then. They'll probably not keep a full compliment of 9 guys from this current group - they would seem to want to cut an extra guy, and pickup a fresh backup elsewhere.

There's plenty of panic on the offense, and not without reason. But without some key players, and without their traditional gameplan, it did look disjointed for a reason. The challenge is the old idiom "practice how you play", and if things are this dreadful in week one, things will snowball quickly.
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