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Monday, September 23, 2013

Carrying Momentum Into ...The Bye Week?

It's the Monday after a massive win. I can't feel like I'm not
somewhat uneasy about the future, nonetheless. Not unlike the Ravens'
game regarding our defense, it's hard to say how repeatable the Giants'
game's success is. Blowout wins and losses run high on emotion, moreso
than that they're longterm measures of success.

No matter what, it's fun to enjoy a real win, not just a preseason one.
It's also a September win, and those have been rare since 2009. Does
Carolina build on it? Do they learn something on the bye?

Last year, following the bye week, Ron Rivera did a lot of
self-scouting. Offensive changes came about, and suddenly Cam Newton
was more efficient and the offense was less 'cute'. So it's time to
look at the ongoing issues and how they might be impacted:

*Running efficiency
Carolina's had some bad luck and some personnel issues to this end.
Carolina's used four guards already this year, with up to three in
rotation. Longterm, it feels worthwhile to simply choose between Chris
Scott and Travelle Wharton; pick your poison and go. This past week,
there weren't as many stuffed runs, but it feels like it's been pretty
standard the last few years for Deangelo Williams to get two yards on
first down no matter what type run it is.

*Pass Blocking
It looked like this one got resolved this week, with only one sack
(credited rightly to Greg Olsen, who shouldn't be blocking the pass - he
should be out in a route) against a pretty good front four. Byron Bell
didn't look terrible this week. But, it's worth watching longterm. I
don't see the OL's struggles as being over by a longshot.

*Offensive Design
Plenty of people were concerned with what Mike Shula would provide. I
don't have significant concerns at this time, but it's going to look a
lot like the earlier Chudzinski offense. I did like that the team threw
in a spark last week with the Cam Newton runs early on, and the team is
getting better with the long ball. However, there's also a need for a
little more playaction. I would advise more rollouts as Newton seems to
be very adept at this, and it's one of the most effective ways to force
a defense's hand in coverage.

*Newton himself
Cam's saying and doing most everything you'd want. I think it's
important to take a little of the pressure off him in general - when
things go wrong, Newton's one of the biggest lightning rods in the
league. Fairly or unfairly, it's not up to just Newton.

I don't know how this secondary ended up excelling, but it did. With
or without time to throw, it's amazing that the team somehow found a way
to bottle up Hakeem Nicks and minimize Victor Cruz.

But what happens next might be interesting back there. At safety, is
Mike Mitchell redeemed? Or does it matter? He'll have to play all
season no matter what. When Quintin Mikell returns, what's his spot -
FS or SS? Or does Robert Lester play a continuing role?

At corner, you face a numbers game again. Does Drayton Florence stay?
Do you activate or demote Melvin White after two turnovers? Or do you
leave Josh Thomas out of plans? Thomas does what's expected of him, and
he tackles better than Josh Norman, whose preseason good will was lost
on the last play in Buffalo. Suddenly the team went from having minimal
hope on that end to having minimal issues, so it will be difficult to
stack players for the next few weeks.

*Special Teams
I don't know how you really fix the punt return issues. I do think
teams are doing a good job of minimizing Ted Ginn on some punts by how
they're kicking to him, but if the defense is going to remain good, the
team can't waste it by knocking into the ball. The team is kicking the
ball better now, and that's helped. So if it can get together on the
punt return issue, simply not giving the ball back, it should have a
good unit. It's time to change up the "get away" communication, if
nothing else.

This team is ungodly levels of moody. It was sparked heavily by the
Ted Ginn return in Baltimore in preseason, and all of a sudden
everything just 'worked'. This week, I don't know what the spark was,
but it was just working; I don't get how a team can be this great at
times and yet seems to fall apart when it can win but seemingly doesn't
think it can.

And I don't have a good answer for that one.
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