29 August, 2011


We’ve often heard that the third pre-season game in the NFL is what most coaches like to call their “dress rehearsal”, with the starters and first-stringers playing for most of 3 quarters. I’m going to admit that I found myself very excited about watching these NEW Carolina Panthers against a team that, frankly, wasn’t very good last year, wasn’t expected to be very good THIS year, and presented favorable matchups for our Panthers. With a half gallon of PREMIUM chili in hand, I hurriedly zipped to Casa Dano for the evening. The game couldn’t have started better –

Most of you saw that impressive defensive play that put the ball in the Panther’s offensive paws in the first quarter, with DESIGNED PLAYS showcasing Cam Newton’s amazing running ability, and he scored his very first NFL touchdown! It was to be pretty much the only highlight of the evening. As I saw BOTH lines of scrimmages pushed around like they would be overweight middleschoolers.

And I began to ponder the notion of a “dress rehearsal”. What I SAW was a bunch of football players that might as well have been wearing DRESSES, that frock that adorns WOMEN. Hell, the HOGETTES could have possibly put up a better fight that these STARTING units did! The defensive line was far worse, truth be told. They absolutely looked LOST, as the Bungles gashed them for almost 300 yards and 24 UNANSWERED POINTS in the first half. It was a carbon copy of what we saw the week before at Miami. And Dano and I began to contemplate a 4-12 season.

Or worse.

Now, I would be one of the first to say that pre-season success is much like “fools gold”. You can NEVER accurately predict what any particular team is going to do by what they do in the pre-season. And, conversely, pre-season FAILURE could be the very best thing for any team trying to work out kinks and problems in any given unit. I’ve seen traditionally good teams stink it up in August, only to tear it up in the regular season, and I’ve seen the Lions win ALL FOUR of the preseason games, only to return to the cold, murky bottom of the standings. DC Jim McDermott spent the entire first half in an uncustomary position for him, up in the coaching booth. He usually hones his craft on the sidelines, and when he returned to the field for the third quarter, the defense DID actually start to play better, but by that time, the game was already decided, and I began to pick apart the carcass. Here’s my thoughts about this DRESSY game –

First and foremost, this team belongs to Cam Newton. No question about that. The way this offense responds to him is like night and day as compared to when Claussen is behind center. Second, Newton’s completions to the tight end CONTINUES to be more than that of the wide receivers. If I’m a ASTUTE football fan, I would NOT be concerned about this. The tight end is an INTEGRAL part of Rob Chudzinski’s offense. Which tells me –

Cam is getting it. Steadily, surely, he’ll get it. And when he does, you will see the beginning of an truly exciting offensive machine. And there will be plenty of balls for Smitty and his WR mates, I guarantee it.
I wouldn’t worry about this offense right now. We are getting Jeff Otah back, and if he’s healthy for the bulk of the season, we’ll move the ball, absolutely.

Thirdly, this defense is a mess. The players we have to play the all – important tackle position are so far behind right now, it handicaps the things the ends can do. The secondary is slow, and leaky. The linebackers are going to have to shoulder the load on this unit, and I hope to heaven that our depth holds out. My buddy Wildman had the interesting thought -

What if we went from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, considering the abundance of those quality linebackers?
I know it’s somewhat ridiculous to change something so fundamental so close to the regular season, but if the defense looks like what we saw last Thursday, what would we have to lose? I DO hope it doesn’t come to that, and that McDermott fixes the egregious errors he saw. It’s a new coaching staff too, y’all, and they’ve got to find their way as well.

And, we’ve got an opportunity to make some quality adds when the cuts come out this week. And because of our stellarly BAD record, we’ve got first dibs on the waver wire. So, I wouldn’t be so terribly gloomy right now. We’ve got a meaningless game against the Squeelers this Thursday, and a stadium that is sure to be half filled with their fans. ***oh*** joy **** I cannot tell you how disgusted I am at that prospect.

But even with my cautious optimism, I recall last year, where the offense failed to score a touch in all four games. It was indeed a bellwether for the season. This year’s defensive squad could be tolling the tone of the regular season. And I hope I’m wrong, dead wrong, but I’m thinking we’re somewhere in the middle of dreadful, and worthy of dread.

That’s my rant of the week, y’all! I’ll see some of you in the lot Thursday, some of you in the stadium, and ALL of you back next week, with my predictions for the season! Stay Tuned!

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