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Showing posts with label preseason. Show all posts
Showing posts with label preseason. Show all posts

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.

Preseason Wrapup

So what did we learn in preseason?
Special Teams could continue to be special in the wrong direction. Hope not.
We learned that you can pick up backs off the street and they can have a level of success in the right situation.  Tauren Poole and Armond Smith were fantastic by the end of preseason.  I love Jonathan Stewart, but I worry about the overall monetary commitment.  Is Stewart that much better?  Absolutely. Would a scatback type like Poole that can hit the seam well enough and catch a ball or two do fine enough in a massive emergency?  Probably.  Actually, i don’t remember seeing Poole or Smith block, or do much in the pass at all, so who knows if either can. 
Which, between the level of contribution that the 2012 draft has provided, and some of the talent Carolina picked up as undrafted free agents, their scouting department is hitting on a much higher level than, for instance, 2009 (which was a disastrous draft) or 2010 (potentially obsolete, minus Brandon Lafell and Greg Hardy).  It doesn’t hurt to have a full offseason, to know what you already have (an issue in 2011) or even just stability in coaching (09-10’s issue). Hopefully that’s a good sign for the future.
From my perspective, I saw growth from the defense, which was necessary.  It’s hard to say how much of it’s legitimate growth, and how much of it’s just the addition of new guys (including injury return guys).  Obviously, Luke Kuechly’s as good as advertised.  Jon Beason will make a huge difference.  Ron Edwards looks like he can penetrate well, hold at the point of attack well.   Josh Norman seems legitimately as good as advertised – good, since on night two of the draft I was legitimately interested in him in round 2 and he went in the 5th (yikes).  Haruki Nakamura should make a difference in simply getting to the right spot at the right time, adding some fire to a lackadaisical secondary (Norman adds some swagger that’s been missing, too). At least four of them bring a level of experience and ability to communicate that should improve the team IQ, and limit the mistakes.
So, five new starters.   Is that enough?  It can’t hurt.  But what about the existing pieces?  Luckily, those pieces did well for us last year, and those other 6 seem to have better depth behind them than this time last year. But will there be more production, more ability, in those six?   It’s hard to say, still.  James Anderson, for instance, might get freed up, but he’ll have no real shot at the tackle numbers he had – will he be more effective with a smaller load? 
The ends, hard to say as well, and more blitzing won’t affect their numbers positively. More depth might mean a little more overall production, and certainly options. Chris Gamble might get more targets if he’s working on the left side more, and he’ll have to earn his low QB ratings all over again.   Charles Godfrey might get more time off the line, instead of playing close to the TE.  He’s more comfortable playing back, so that may help. 
Two new specialists?  Thomas Davis was fantastic as a nickel LB. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s used and who with – I can only hope for some 3-3 nickel – and maybe Sherrod Martin will be used in some big-nickel alignments in a more focused role.  Hopefully, that matters.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

V/S Dolphins - Preseason Aftermath

Victory!  prior to the game I wanted to set some rational objectives to suggest a real victory, regardless of the scoreboard in some situations.  Here's what I wanted to see at least 3 of:

*A win (check)
*A halftime lead (check)
*three defensive turnovers (only one)
*a breakout player (not really)
*no injuries (check)

They definitely hit hard on the first two, and luckily/most imporantly, no injuries. 

The 17-0 first quarter lead was fantastic, and set into a 20-3 first half lead.  Carolina held on for a 23-17 win.  

The first quarter set up with an initial drive by Carolina, starting at its own 16, with a 15 yard Deangelo Williams run up the middle, a quick hitter by Jonathan Stewart for 4, then a playaction strike up the right sideline to Greg Olsen for 27.  Bang, bang, and then the big play.  Get used to that, and it's certainly more interesting than the old "three clouds of dust and a yard" John Fox run-run-pass.  See, there are various ways to do things, and this is just better.  Unfortunately, a good screen to Williams was brought partially back by a Brandon LaFell hold, and Carolina couldn't pick up an odd 1st and 2 from the Miami 31, where Justin Medlock kicked from 49.   

Other highlights from the drive: a miscommunication from the center of the line had Ryan Kalil passing off Randy Starks to no one , so Cam Newton took a hard hit on the Olsen pass. I almost pinned it on rook Amini Silatolu, but it was passed to the right from Kalil. 

Carolina defense, including a batted ball from Charles Johnson, held the Dolphins to a long 3 and out (the 1st down, a 1 yard run, was nullified by a Greg Hardy offsides; Miami couldn't pick up 2nd and 2 or 3rd and 2 after a 3 yard Reggie Bush run).  Receiving the ball at their 34, Carolina came out throwing, with an incomplete deep shot to Steve Smith that would ignite a battle with Vontae Davis; after a 2nd incompletion, Newton hit Brandon LaFell for 25; two plays later, a Williams run turned into Carolina's favor as Davis was hit for a personal foul retaliating on Smith for a hard block; the block took Davis out of his shoe and his helmet; Smith also realistically took his dignity, and fifteen yards.    Next play, Newton hit backup TE Ben Hartsock on a laser for 18 yards; down to the 1, two plays later Stewart would leap in for the score. 

Another 3 and out for Miami left Carolina with the ball at the 20; a skinny post to Smith went for 15; a five yard Williams run and a 6 yard out to Olsen picked up another first down; a big pass interference on the Dolphins' Shaun Smith left the ball at the Miami 10, and Williams dove in for the 9 yard score two plays later on a short screen.  

If Carolina can play that well all year, it'll be a long, productive year, but Miami's not the team Houston was.  Now with a 17 point deficit, Miami abandoned any sort of gameplan and went no-huddle, and often shotgun, much of the remaining game, and now Cam Newton and most of the starters were out. 

The remaining game was done with backups, the most notable things being the bullish Mike Tolbert knocking over Miami's Chris Clemons, and then fumbling onto him; and the game-ending INT that was pulled in by RJ Stanford. 

A few impressions on the game:
*Newton was very sharp. 8/11, with incompletions only on a deep ball to Smith, and two screen balls that didn't connect (the timing looked off on both, but otherwise it wasn't repeatable). 

*Derek Anderson was less sharp than last week, but made some plays. Highlights included a great end-around to Louis Murphy (31 yards), a quick slant to Kealoha Pilares right before the half for 32 that set up a FG; 

*backs were excellent, minus the fumble, before the backups.  

*TEs were good, as each of Olsen/Barnidge/Hartsock brought in 15+ yard passes. 

*Line play was OK, minus the early hit on Newton and the Silatolu miss on a run play that got Williams hit hard; the backups started to be poor and Jeff Byars is on his way out at backup C.  Byron Bell wasn't noticeable, which I'll take in any game.

*The defense overall held early.  It did help that Miami threw so much, and didn't run; it gave the defense the ability to pin it back and take their shots. 
But, with that said, they did hold the run well, too.  Charles Johnson looked like a star out there, easing any worries about last season's bad back or the offseason's knee surgery.  Backups Frank Alexander and Thomas Keiser grabbed both sacks and pressure; 

*Josh Norman had his debut - I thought it was interesting he played RCB, and Chris Gamble moved to LCB, for nickel.  Only other time in recent memory I remember that, was when Gamble was coming off the bench in 2010 (despite playing as good of ball as he ever has).  Norman was not called for PI, nor targeted, outside of a screen to Davone Bess that got 0 yards.  The other two CB played far off their men, and Gamble did give up a couple of INT dropped deep into his zone.  Expect more man-technique cover 3 than what he was doing out there, so I was not concerned Gamble was targeted. 

*Not much movement in the S argument - Martin and Nakamura were both good, but unspectacular; Reggie Smith wasn't heard from until later. 

*LBs had another solid night, with Luke Kuechly getting turned around on a 3rd and long completion but otherwise doing allright in all phases; Jason Phillips looks, again, like a solid 2-down backup ILB; Jordan Senn was active as a reserve again.  I can't wait to see Jon Beason back on the field. 

*Special Teams was much improved, not giving up much in coverage, and tackling better.  Sherrod Martin continues to be a force on coverage units now that he has to fight for a job.  

*Armanti Edwards had a good punt return nullified; still, he has no realistic shot at the job.  I did see Edwards as a gunner on one punt, and he got creamed.  

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dolphins Game Aftermath

First, injury situations:

  • Jon Beason came out of the game in the first half, replaced by Dan Connor. MRI results weren't released by the team; Chris Mortensen from ESPN suggests it's a MCL tear and he'll be out 4-6 weeks, but Mortensen said that before any MRI. Beason believes it a sprain and he'd only miss 2 weeks of preseason.
  • Charles Godfrey broke bones in his hand. He was replaced by Quentin Teal. (Update - Godfrey had surgery, Fox states he's day to day. Would definitely miss the next two games, and is being replaced by Kevin Kaesviharn, former Bengal and Saint)
  • Jeff Otah went down, came out of the game to be replaced by Geoff Schwartz, and later re-entered the game. No tests were done, Otah is presumed to be fine.

Observations: Jake Delhomme looked sharper this week, hitting most of his targets. Only Mike Goodson's swing pass to the left flat was high, and was caught. Delhomme looked more in a rhythm, hit numberous receivers, and finished 5/7 for 47 yards.

The tight ends had a great game. Contrary to last week, Gary Barnidge didn't start; all three players got time with the first offense and Dante Rosario responded well, with three big receptions for 54 yards, and a good downfield block that helped spring Deangelo Williams on his TD run. Compared to last week, Rosario was brilliant - last week Rosario gave up a sack in pass protection and was fairly poor in overall play. Jeff King and Barnidge each brought down two balls, on out routes.

Matt Moore got the 2nd QB role this week, showing poise in the pocket and gunning downfield. One pass should've been intercepted (but wasn't), but Moore showed a willingness to make things happen. He needed to dump the ball off more to keep drives alive, which is where Josh McCown thrived, piloting a long scoring drive but not making any plays against the third string Miami defense. McCown was 7 for 12, for 61 yards, where Moore was 4/9 for 41.

Mike Goodson had 8 carries for 23 yards, at times looking explosive but not having a lot of success when not running outside. Goodson took the punishment and didn't lay the ball out, which was a start, but he needs to hit the hole faster and run inside better to remain a bigtime contributor.

Not much stood out at WR. Without Muhammad or Steve Smith, Dwayne Jarrett and Kenny Moore started; Jarrett failed to get a target. Ryne Robinson was the 3rd WR and got a few looks, but failed to do much with it. It's hard to remember much that happened with the WRs that was positive, with Ryne Robinson's 1 catch for 15 yards leading receivers.

The first offensive line blocked well, giving the QBs time and Deangelo Williams space to run; Geoff Schwartz didn't give up much run blocking but pass blocked poorly in relief of Otah. Schwartz, who came from a pass-first offense, still doesn't have quick enough feet to play RT on his own at this level.

Everette Brown collected another sack, on another fast outside move that batted the football away from Chad Henne. This time, however, instead of battling another rookie, this was Pro Bowl OT Jake Long. Brown didn't give up much to the powerful Brown. Hilee Taylor was all over the field but struggled against the run; Charles Johnson showed awareness and strength, not giving up much against the run and getting a good hit on Henne, but against backups Johnson still should be playing at a higher level.

Nick Hayden had a couple good pass plays, almost blocking a pass and getting near the quarterback twice. He has a good first step, knows what to do with his hands. But against the run, he won't just take the contact, and easily seems to vacate the hole he's supposed to cover. He doesn't look like he gains leverage well. Marlon Favorite does a much better job holding the point of attack but has no penetrating moves or ability, has a slow first step, and doesn't get off blocks well. Corvey Irvin looks solid but doesn't stand out right now, being beaten out by a former 6th rounded and the rookie undrafted Favorite.

James Anderson made plays this week, leading the team with 8 tackles. Last week got him press, but this week he actually made things happen, and laid some hard hits. Landon Johnson played while coming back from injury, but didn't impress. As always, Dan Connor made some punishing hits, including one to Ronnie Brown that ended up pushing Brown to the sideline to rest. Jeremy Leman looked off-cue this week, still looking like a heat-seeking missile but not pointed in the right direction.

Despite the mid-week comments, Dante Wesley played at corner. He was unremarkable there, which beat CJ Wilson who gave up a number of plays. Sherrod Martin looked solid late in the game tackling but gets turned around on his receivers somewhat often.

Carolina plays Miami again in the regular season, primetime November 19th at home. Carolina has never beaten Miami, and will get a great chance here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

V/S NYG, 8/12/07

Carolina showed about what it always does, with some nice additions, in preaseason games when playing NY this Saturday.

Some individual defensive standouts, fairly strong offensive output initially and a few plays later combined with overall sputtering. Winning 24-21, the game ended with Carolina running the clock out versus the Giants' attempts in vain to make something happen to win (even including Tom Coughlin eagerly burning timeouts while Carolina sat on the ball in Giants territory with a minute to go).

The highlights so far:

  • Jake Delhomme looks comfortable, calm, and steps into his throws again.
  • Third down isn't a stress. We converted a lot of them, and we simply use options.
  • We use the TE. We don't have a lot of talent there (yet), but we'll still use it.
  • This offense sustains drives instead of killing them. Build drives, march. No worry of whether a long bomb will work, but room to take the shot.
  • The OL gets to the line quickly and works crisply, together. No coming to the line slowly, waiting for the play clock to drain away (and drain the energy).
  • Our youth at LB looks active (with exception to Anderson, who started at WLB). They still have some room to learn, and must.
  • Steve Smith can effortlessly become the playmaker without it all being on his shoulders.
  • Chris Harris looks like an active defender (but with the coverage problems you'd expect).
  • Ken Lucas and Julius Peppers are still killers.
The defense looked solid for starters. Adam Seward made some plays as a starting MLB, but James Anderson looked lost and easily blockable. Thomas Davis looks like he can make things happen if he's on his man, and the interior DL looked very good.

At DE, Stanley McClover really helped himself in the year since he came to camp in 06, and looks like the starter when Mike Rucker isn't in. Looks like Charles Johnson can play the run and use his power on OTs, as well. He has quickness, though, and needs to use some of it. Dave Ball even looked active. Otis Grigsby made a lot of waves in the 2nd half, but there probably isn't enough room. DTs didn't really stand out, but there seemed to be good pressure on first look and not a lot of room to run inside. A second look at the game will be more enlightening on the starters and backups. Kindal Moorehead did stand out, on run defense, in that he was getting blocked out. Apparently Moorehead just isnt' that functionally strong, and probably shouldn't make the cut. Stephen Williams is a big guy, who got some push, but Lavalais didn't show anything.

The DBs were hard to judge. A couple good plays here and there, a couple bad plays here and there. Nothing remarkable out of Deke Cooper, or any of the backups.

The WRs were erratic, save for Taye Biddle, who caught a couple easy balls for TDs, and Smith, who hauls anything short of ten feet over his head. Robinson showed some RAC ability, but Carter only caught a single 7 yard pass and Colbert went catchless.