Tuesday, August 14, 2012
V/S Houston, Aftermath
What a disappointing contest. I knew Houston came in with a little more talent, and have the more established team, but I didn’t like the tone Carolina set coming into the game. Continued sloppiness, confusion, and not enough people stepping up to make a play.
Starting first with the more critical, still struggling unit:
*Carolina’s still having some gap integrity problems, and could simply use more strength up front. Ron Edwards does his, Kuechly takes care of his end, and Jon Beason will handle his. But I have yet to see that there’s much to offer at the 3-technique, and James Anderson will have to come correct with his as well. I’ll hold on resolving the contain and end situation with more looks on Greg Hardy – I’ve seen enough of Charles Johnson to know he’s fine there. FWIW, I believe a sideline shot of Johnson had him a little heavier than he was last year. Hope that’s not the case, as he plays better light (see 2009, where he was 290).
*I will give some props for causing two straight turnovers, after that first long drive. The team is consciously working on this, which is nice. On the Phillips INT, notice that a blitzing Munnerlyn has a QB pressure. FWIW, Munnerlyn isn’t the guy they want at CB – he’s not the long armed, fast guy they crave. But no one’s met the needs yet. It’s a shame – Munnerlyn isn’t that great at coverage either, but he’s a football player. He blitzes well, he plays the run.
*Luke Kuechly looks like a natural. He just plays the ball well. That’ll make a difference, and having Beason return will help a lot as well. Maybe Anderson can return to worrying about his gap more now, and less on freelancing.
*Haruki Nakamura doesn’t look necessarily like he deserves a start, but he’s mixing it up. He had a hard hit on a receiver, and we need that (though it probably will cost him money this week, and it’s the first time I’ve seen a helmet come off a defender and then return itself during play). He’s a sure tackler, and the incumbents are awful there. On the back end, he didn’t stand out with the 2s. While it’s hard to get a great feel for DB play in preseason, where angles are even tighter to formation than normal, I didn’t see anything special anywhere in the defensive backfield. I didn't see vet Reggie Smith doing much.
*There was a little 3-4 in there already. It made no appreciable impact, and I don’t know I saw the first unit in it. I haven’t really broken down tape to see who was where, but Fua was the NT, and Edwards had retired for the day. To not give up too much to scouts, I might not worry too much about seeing it with the 1s, at least with traditional personnel. You might see some changeups, like Charles Johnson at end and Greg Hardy standing – contrary to a few reports it was definitely Johnson standing, not Hardy, last year – but probably not what Carolina intends to run mid-season.
*The backup DTs aren’t that good. Neblett got some play with the 1s, so maybe they retired a whole group early, but Nwagbuo was getting handled. I saw little of the depth you might hope could come from a year of growing.
*At end, Applewhite is clearly still the guy. Frank Alexander is playing the run well. He has to use his hands better to separate in the passing game, because he gets into his man hard but doesn’t release to make a play well enough. He has the ability, but it may be next year before he really contributes.
*Backup end Ryan Van Bergen is stout at the point of attack but doesn’t add much for rush. No idea why the team has allotted him as a right end. He looks interesting enough to put on practice squad, where a 290 lb guy with hustle can learn.
*Cam Newton finished 2/6, not impressive. The run was fine, and he naturally has a good feel for the pocket, but held the ball too long for the primary receiver instead of dealing with his secondaries and was a part of letting pressure get into him. One time he did check down, to Tolbert, there was a drop. Hopefully it’s all rust.
*Newton and too many of the other 1s just didn’t play long. If you pull Steve Smith, fine, that makes sense. He could use a little more time with Brandon LaFell, and he could use more time with the other WRs. Get a guy or two in there at TE with Olsen. The starting 3 backs were gone after a very short session, it would’ve made sense to get some play in with Tolbert at halfback. The limited usage was fine, but I don’t have as much confidence in the 1st offense as I might want.
*Derek Anderson was the best of the QBs, and connected with newcomer Louis Murphy a few times, but then (around the time of the PI calls), he completely changes his throwing motion and started heaving up balls to the sidelines. It was weird, and coincided with a string of passes that appeared to be back shoulder fades and some of which were pass interference. But, Anderson had good accuracy on regular balls and appears to continue to be competent. As he should be. He was the best QB of last preseason as well.
*Jimmy Clausen wasn’t dealing with the best protection but looked highly rattled. Clearly a guy with talent, I stand behind not feeling that Clausen is a good fit for the offense. He needs a fresh start, with the ability to have some motivation toward moving forward. Here there’s nothing – not that he’s unmotivated, but there’s gotta be a demoralizing feeling about becoming the guy, and then everyone’s here around you with the new guy while you flounder. Either way, it’s not working here.
*I am encouraged, to a point, on the line blocking for the run. There will take some time to get ready for the pass, still. Clearly there were some breakdowns, and the team says there were only basic protections in there. Carolina always has run success, and in preseason, this offense doesn’t setup any sort of consistent running game, or with any specific attack in mind, so I don’t have worries there. Amini Silatolu had some miscues, but nothing major.
*Poole definitely gained ground on Josh Vaughan at RB. I don’t know if Carolina keeps either guy – they could very well go with just the 3 guys, plus maybe Richie Brockel if they wanted. They don’t require a traditional 3rd back at all. But, Poole looked like the better runner. Vaughan didn’t do a lot, and had a dropped ball.
*Louis Murphy with catches of 20, 22. This guy could gain on the field. Seyi Ajirotutu appears to have had the first shot at the 3rd WR spot, after I'd written him off. He had a reception for 12 yards as well. Actually, while only Murphy and TE Gary Barnidge had 2 receptions, 5 of the receptions went for over ten yards (out of a paltry 12 completions). There is speed on this roster, and even the guys without a ton of speed are getting upfield.
*TE Ben Hartsock doesn't seem to block well and is a blocking specialist. May be time to find someone else for that 100 or so snaps. Maybe if he's not cut this year, next? The draft is the ideal place to pickup roleplayers like Hartsock's role would fill. 6'7, 255 lb Joseph Fauria (UCLA) or 6'6, 270 lb Michael Williams (Arkansas - of course, Arkansas. Whoever recruits for them has a fat fetish - remember Jason Peters? He was a 325 lb TE for them). You can get guys cheaper, with a future, than Hartsock.
*Worried at DT and CB, still.
*Plenty of talent, but it has to do something out there.
*Gotta have less jumpy QB play. That may come with gameplanning and actual running, too.
*The youth looks good so far, through the 4th round. Coming right off injury, Josh Norman didn’t look interesting yet. We’ll see how that continues. Nortman looks passable as a punter, hard to tell much difference from the veteran.