I enjoyed slowing down the tape for the snap a number of times to see who got off the ball first. It was, more often than not, Star Lotuleilei. After watching Greg Hardy win last year most snaps, Charles Johnson is doing better (though he jumped once, which was a problem for Johnson early in his career). All three are quick, however, and it reminds me of watching Julius Peppers in preseason only to notice that Kris Jenkins had become a huge asset.
Lotuleilei did allright with his first Panther action; he hit his gap quickly and resets the line of scrimmage. He didn't always have great pass rush, and he's gotta work on his moves. But he keeps his leverage and that's a good first impression.
Kawann Short almost had a sack on Johnson's sack play; other than that he was quiet, though he does show some natural pass rush ability (as advertised). *Edit - Short was given a half sack with Johnson on the play.
Colin Cole looked OK as a backup NT. Sione Fua got open and had a pressure once, and maybe he's not getting pushed back, but he doesn't look like a threat to be the 4th DT. I didn't see anything of Frank Kearse that had gotten better, either.
Johnson and Hardy remain potent. Hardy looks to be a little better outside with the thinning out, but he did still get some pressure inside in the one snap I saw of him there so the power game should still be there outside, too.
Frank Alexander - the few snaps I noticed, I saw Alexander making contact too wide. When you start out as a 9 technique, you still have to bunch down if you haven't gotten a great jump on the OT, and when you don't, what happens is what happened to Alexander a time or two - when you do try to turn in toward the QB, you get stoned. You want to get into the OT's body before he can get on you.
Potential 4th end Mario Addison had a nice sack and FF. His competition, rookies Craig Roh (1 sack) and Louis Nzegwu (2 sacks) might've narrowed the gap a bit. Addison looked to mix it up a bit more in the run game with 4 total tackles.
Thomas Davis played minimally, as did Luke Kuechly. Jon Beason, as expected, didn't play at all. Replacement starter Chase Blackburn looks fluid all over the field, including in coverage at times. He had a blitz sack that saw him shedding a chip block.
Backup MLB AJ Klein, the 5th round rookie, looks instinctive and quick, despite only having two assists. Backup WLB Jason Williams had a quick-looking sack on a blitz as well as looking allright in space. This is a good looking group in general, as deep and strong as any Carolina unit.
Can't say enough about Josh Norman's resurgence. He was the first player off the bench, with Captain Munnerlyn reprising his nickel role inside against 3+ WR. Norman jumped the first ball for the INT, and the second just came to him in trail coverage, but was well done to be brought back to the house for the TD. Without a lot of physical, large CB prospects on this team, it's nice to see Norman taking advantage of the absence of Josh Thomas and DJ Moore. Hard to say whether he was behind either guy, but it's worth suggesting he may not be now.
Munnerlyn and Drayton Florence as starters looked decent enough; with no Brandon Marshall and only a modest amount of time with Jay Cutler, it's hard to give it an automatic OK. But, neither guy did anything wrong, which is nice.
4th CB for the night with the absences seemed to be between James Dockery, an incumbent who played a bit at the end of 2012, and rookie Melvin White, both of which were high in tackles but didn't make a lot of plays.
Mike Mitchell looked allright at SS and played near the line a lot; while there was a lot of man coverage, it looks like where Mitchell will work best. He's physical, and a little dirty. He played a little longer than Charles Godfrey, who was barely heard from. Nether were officially on the box score.
Behind them, the standout may have been 3rd string Anderson Russell. Apparently, Russell played 3 games for Carolina with no stats. But Russell had 6 tackles and a FF, as well as a crushing block on special teams. I didn't see much out of Robert Lester, and Haruki Nakamura didn't make much impact.
The defense was, at times, nearly brilliant. The DL makes a difference out there, and the LBs are dynamite, barely even losing much outside of starters - which is saying a bit. But, this is against a makeshift, vanilla offense, and so it's hard to say that much has really improved, yet.
Kick return teams were mixed; with no Ted Ginn, the best of the rest was Kenjon Barner, who had a 36 yard return. Kealoha Pilares is too scattered and dances too much; Armond Smith just runs in a straight line and picked wrong. Blocking needs to improve a bit as well.
It was nice to see the long Joe Adams return. Even the shorter of the two, 9 yards, is more than welcome every time. Adams needed that, having not seen any value on the field yet.
Graham Gano looked good, kicking the 50 yarder. Morgan Lineberry got on the field for 2 XP. Statistically, Jordan Gay looked better than Brad Nortman.