It felt like Carolina controlled the pace and energy in the preseason home opener v/s Chicago Friday night. I wanted to give this a legitimate 2nd look with a full review before fully commenting. Here's what I saw:
Cam Newton would've regressed if you looked at one snap, his final one. On the pick-6, it's hard to say what he was thinking. Clearly bracketed, Greg Olsen wasn't who you throw to. With the hindsight of tape study, Brandon LaFell was breaking free behind him for a long gain; credit to Newton for not being too much of a gunner, but in this case that would've been the smarter thing to do.
That said, it was Cover-1 Robber (this is why another man was with Olsen on otherwise man type coverage), so the FS would've inevitably had a free shot at LaFell, too. That analysis comes from Chris Brown, of smartfootball.com and twitter.com/smartfootball, who otherwise commends Newton for going to his 3rd receiver for a 3rd down conversion. I'd also add that, while the LaFell touchdown was a setup play (LaFell even kinda alluded to Armanti Edwards' role in a potential pick), that he obviously wasn't the first read, either. So Cam had some growth. He finished 3 of 6 for 16 yards, a TD, and an INT; ideally, he'd throw for more than 2.5 yards per attempt and a pick, but that's not his game. He did look accurate on most balls thrown, and to his credit, wanted back on the field to avenge the TD.
Derek Anderson was less steady than you might hope of a former Pro Bowler going against 2s in efficiency (8/15) but finished at almost 9 yards per attempt, not bad for an outing where no one had more than 24 yards in a play. Anderson can still be accurate deep, and still has the arm. Which makes his INT near the sideline disappointing, because he floated a corner route ball that was easily picked. He didn't take many short attempts, however, and that affected his efficiency. Not connecting more with Ted Ginn, targeted I believe 7 times and connecting once, was part of it.
Jimmy Clausen was more efficient, but remains skittish in the pocket. Clausen has the ability to throw deep, just not the patience. You could argue the fumbled exchange with Kenjon Barner was his fault.
Nice to have Deangelo Williams back. Would be great if he didn't have to make something out of nothing more than occasionally.
Tauren Poole was strong inside at times, including the 11 yard run deep inside his territory. The remaining carries were more pedestran, catching 12 yards total over the other 8 carries. Barner's 9 carries went for 37 yards and a score, despite the fumble (and argument over the 2nd one).
Lots of kudos for Armanti Edwards' 2 catches, but David Gettis' first real field time since 2010 was encouraging, too. Gettis actually led the team in receiving, 3/56; Barner was the only other player to catch more than one ball from RB.
Ginn's inefficiency and slotting behind Edwards leaves room for the injured Domenik Hixon to pick up space in the argument. Kealoha Pilares was 5th in the rotation, ahead of Gettis, but only hauled in 1 ball on 2 targets. It did feel like more of the WR balls were based on option routes, and I don't know if that will continue to be a focus, but it's worth mentioning.
Olsen was on target, but Newton locked onto him at times where it might not have been advantageous. It's tough to beat man coverage as a TE, but Olsen should be open more. No worries, though.
Ben Hartsock didn't impress in either run blocking or passing. Brandon Williams was decent in blocking, and went up for an impressive catch near the goal line for the longest play of the night. He played ahead of Richie Brockel, who also filled in at FB.
I concentrated on Garry Williams a good bit. I wanted to give him a fair look, but I also wasn't expecting much. The upside? He did better than expected; my expectations were fairly low, however. Williams, as I hoped, got time with the 2nd string line as well; he didn't stand out with the 2s, much less the 1s. But he didn't make many mistakes.
There was one major gaffe. With Derek Anderson in, 1st quarter and I believe at 13:34, on a deeper shot to Armanti Edwards, Williams got slipped and gave up a free hit to a Bear; Anderson stood in and took it, but it felt unnecessary to have to take it. Williams was struggling, and then lost on a move. That's not good enough. Williams, a career tackle who occasionally moved inside, was an average pass blocker at RT in 2010. He's too slight to really impact the short run game, and best on angles. So he has to be good in the pass game. This play wasn't good enough.
Other than that, he kept guys in front of him in pass pro and got enough push against the run that DTs had to work for it. He did OK on an early pull play to the right, with Deangelo Williams in the game; however, Williams had to double out to make a new hole when Williams' pop didn't move anyone out. Williams does well with trading on players that have stunted, and generally doesn't seem to miss assignments, so he's at least steady.
Outside of Williams, I watched what I could of the newly-changed 66, now worn by 2nd year Amini Silatolu. Silatolu missed his block at 12:50, an inside-to-outside zone run for DW. He blocked playside and the DT inside him slipped through for a stuff; I can't say for certain that wasn't on Ryan Kalil (who looked back to form, somewhat), but he wasn't in Kalil's gap. It looks, based on everyone else, that Silatolu would've blocked there; if he had, instead of doubling down on Gross' man, the play would've worked. Silatolu looked fine otherwise, and powerful at times.
I thought it was interesting that Byron Bell moves to LT with Jordan Gross sitting. The second line was Bell at LT, and Bruce Campbell moves to RT. That feels like a fish-out-of-water situation for both players, honestly. Bell did OK at LT, but lunged a time or two. Campbell doesn't have a ton of power at RT.
The O looked disjointed, but potentially powerful. Looking for the pistol was a pipedream, but I did see some good motion. What I didn't see, and want to see in the regular season, was more shifting and more creativity in formation, but that's not for now. I will say, I don't know if I like Mike Shula up in the coach's box; it requires a bit of Ricky Proehl, Ken Dorsey, and Jim Skipper to address the O, and takes away some of Cam Newton's lifeline. For what it's worth, Proehl commands a sideline presence, and between he and Dorsey, there's definitely leadership (and height, which never hurts). Skipper seems to hang near Ron Rivera, for what it's worth, not unlike what he did with John Fox. Hopefully, a similar relationship remains.
Backup WR coach Lance Taylor fills the other spot up there, which had been Scott Turner's. Taylor is an intriguing young offensive assistant, but those are big shoes to fill.