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Friday, August 31, 2012

Pittsburgh – Preseason Aftermath

Some starters played a series or two – some starters none at all.  In a game that seemed to take forever, Carolina fell one point short after missing two field goals and a two point conversion.  A quick wrapup with a concentration on what it meant for the roster battles:

It appears Carolina came out unscathed from injury, a resounding positive.  Beyond that, the ideal was to come in and provide some closure on a few battles.

First, at QB – Derek Anderson had middling success at first, but led a long drive for a FG.   Jimmy Clausen led what could’ve been a gamewinning drive, threw for 2 TD (more than he’d thrown in any game as a Panther prior) and 160 yards (more than all but four games as a Panther), thanks in no small part to a 79 yard touchdown by Lamont Bryant, one of the rookie free agent WR – the other TD caught by fellow UDFA Jared Green.  Clausen has trouble connecting on the deep passes, and had a couple skittish moments in the pocket, but is finally looking like a guy who already has a year starting in the NFL.

RB – Tauren Poole came off concussion; he and recent roster re-add Armond Smith took most of the snaps and did a fantastic job running in the zone.  It’d be nice to get one on the practice squad.

WR – Ajirotutu and Louis Murphy started; Murphy is clearly the better receiver over time and while Ajirotutu knows the offense and has a little more experience, I wouldn’t put him ahead of Kealoha Pilares for the #4 job. Pilares has grown and has a lot of ability, and the deep speed to take advantage of safeties floating into his area.  So that leaves Ajirotutu versus Armanti Edwards, who had a middling night returning and failed to come down with many of his targets – he does fine when uncovered, but doesn’t get much separation.
Green is fairly explosive for a UDFA and should stick on the PS if he’s able to clear waivers; Lamont Bryant’s size might’ve pushed him there, too.

TE – didn’t get much feel for Ben Hartsock tonight.  He probably stays, but he doesn’t get much separation and outside of the one diving catch this preseason, hasn’t impressed me much.  Gary Barnidge got some good looks (so did Joe Jon Finley...) and should be the #2, but doesn’t block that well.   Richie Brockel, who can play both spots, might stick, but it would come at the expense of another spot.

OL – the preseason TV squad got the starting lineup wrong, and it was hard to keep track as players moved around.  The young starters didn’t play.  Mike Pollak is a solid center.  Jeff Byars was OK at guard, but not a good center over preseason.  Bruce Campbell is definitely on this squad and likely active; good trade.  With he and Pollak as the 6th and 7th guys, but I really have no idea who else should be kept.  I would suggest Garry Williams has a spot, but I don’t feel that confident in him myself; that probably would leave a random guard – Browning, Wells possibly – as #9 if they kept that many.

DT – does appear that Frank Kearse is still as good as we have. I didn’t see Andre Neblett much but it’s suggested he played – see you in four weeks, goober.  Terrell McClain had a great pressure early but still has inconsistent technique and pad level.  I didn’t see many gap integrity issues overall, so that’s a start.  Right now it appears, minus Neblett, that Kearse starts with Edwards, Fua and McClain are regular contributors depending on whether there’s room for both on the active roster; I would also suggest that both Nate Chandler and Ryan Van Bergen are worthy of the practice squad.

DE – Charles Johnson sat; Greg Hardy had a couple rushes and went out; Antwan Applewhite came in occasionally and worked a few packages before being pulled, leaving the remaining rushes to Frank Alexander and Thomas Keiser.  Keiser’s all over the place, constantly making things happen.  Alexander is clearly still learning; both made some big plays.   All five make the squad.  Van Bergen got time at end as well, and did OK for someone as slow as he shows from end. He’s not exceptional in either role, but makes sense if Carolina needed to call up a body later.

LB – with the three vets sitting, Luke Kuechly played a series or so and got out.  Jason Phillips did his customarily solid job between the tackles and it was nice to see him here under a full camp.  Jordan Senn struggled a bit but made his customary run plays (he also looks a lot like the burgular in those awful CPI Security ads). Jason Williams was active and rushed from OLB a few times, potentially seeing if he can mirror Applewhite. Kenny Onatolu didn’t play, and that may make a difference.   David Nixon was fairly sharp for a 3rd teamer, and I wouldn’t be opposed to him staying on in the practice squad; Kion Wilson not as much.

CB – Chris Gamble sat; Captain Munnerlyn was out for only a while, and Josh Norman worked the half. Norman didn’t, that I’m aware, get a target, and appears to have been playing a fair amount of man coverage.

S- DJ Campbell got his first real action of the preseason, putting in 4 tackles and 2 assists. Nice to see extended action of the 7th rounder.  Reggie Smith played, and didn't stand out despite being a veteran.
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