With plenty of starters sitting out for the last preseason game, the reserves stepped up and gained the victory over the PIttsburgh Steelers, 10-0.
You know what to expect from the fourth and final NFL preseason game.
Backups. Plays that go nowhere. Players that won’t make the team. Empty stands.
This game was no different.
But we did learn a lot about what the 2014 Carolina Panthers have in reserve. Backup quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Joe Webb led scoring drives while defense shut down the Pittsburgh Steelers, with a final score of 10-0. Reserve running back Fozzy Whittaker made a statement to make the team, gaining 91 yards on 23 carries, and scoring the game’s only touchdown.
Being preseason with vanilla playbooks and backup to the backups in the game, there is not much analysis. So I will sprinkle in some stats from tonights game as I list a final tally of the Panthers that impressed and depressed throughout training camp and the preseason.
Panthers that impressed
WR Brenton Bersin - Bersin has come up with impressive catches in nearly every preseason game. Whether its route running, or the concentration during difficult catches, Berson has surely impressed Panthers fans. He even had the "veteran savvy" to draw a pass interference against his defender. Not only does he deserve a roster spot, but he deserves playing time.
RB Fozzy Whittaker - Runs hard. Fights between the tackles. Does not go down easily. More than you can say about the regular starter, DeAngelo Williams. Looked strong against the Steelers and had a powerful touchdown run from 2 yards out. Makes losing Tyler Gaffney look like a blessing in disguise.
WR Kelvin Benjamin - Whether his quarterback is Cam Newton or Anderson, he looks good. Last week, matched up against arguably the best shutdown corner in the league, Darrelle Revis, Benjamin outplayed him and routinely made difficult catches look easy. He nearly made another touchdown catch tonight against the Steelers, but it went through his hands. Despite the drop, it appears that he has the faith of his quarterbacks and his fans. He’ll never have Steve Smith’s moxie, but the outrage over his release has been silenced to a peep.
TE Brandon Williams - Another young up-and-comer that has routinely made plays each preseason game. If he is not making catches, he is showing up in other areas, making violent tackles in special teams and when the Patriots nearly took an interception to the house. He had 2 catches for 20 yards against the Steelers, and looks like a viable starter.
RB Jonathan Stewart - He did not play against the Steelers, but he has been impressive in the two preseason games against the Chiefs and Patriots. He had a rough year last year, but he looks like he is truly back. Perhaps his renaissance will be akin to Thomas Davis, but of the offense.
QB Joe Webb - He led more touchdown drives that Newton this preseason. (Although he did have more chances.) But quite frankly, he is a playmaker and keeps the chains moving. Head coach Ron Rivera suggested he will make the team and I think he should. Good coaches would find a place for him. Emergency quarterback. Returner. QB or WR in Wildcat. This dude can play.
WR Philly Brown - A minor breakout game tonight against the Steelers. He had 3 catches for 68 yards, highlighted by a 53 yard catch that should have been a touchdown if it were not underthrown by Webb. He appears (against backups at least) to find a way to get behind a defense. He still too shaky for my taste on punt returns, (I brace myself when the ball comes to him) but he will be fine.
Panthers that didn’t surprise
QB Cam Newton - He also did not play against the Steelers. As I keep tweeting, Newton traditionally struggles in the preseason. He does not run for extra yardage, he is using a vanilla playbook, and he’s recovering from ankle surgery. His struggles should not be a surprise. But the good that we did see (touchdown drives against the Chiefs, rapport with Benjamin, some escapability) makes me not nervous at all for the regular season. Take a deep breath Panther Nation, he will be fine.
DT Star Lotulelei - Played sparingly against the Steelers, and showed the burst through the offensive line that we are used to seeing. He is a load for opposing interior lineman, and everyday we are reminded what a blessing it is he fell to the Panthers in last year’s draft.
DT Kawann Short - Nearly had a safety against the Steelers tonight. Heard comparisons to a young Warren Sapp. Doesn’t deserve that comparison yet, but he has been darn good.
LB Luke Kuechly - Did not play against the Steelers. Quarterback of the defense, has made plays every single preseason game. "Beauty and the Beast" Kuechly and Davis are the heart and soul of this defense. When they are on a roll, the defense looks unstoppable, as they did against the Chiefs and Patriots. When he is out, it is noticeable.
Panthers that depressed
S Robert Lester - Did not play against the Steelers, and may be in consideration to waived or be on IR. He is a great tackler when he gets a chance, but is so frequently out of position. Hate to criticize him so much, but it is that same problem that was a big reason the Panthers could not stop the 49ers in last year’s playoff game.
CB Josh Norman - I get it. Some of you are fans. He has some impressive plays, and interceptions every preseason. He had 4 tackles against the Steelers. But I don’t buy it. He talks too much for my taste and he jawed with Thomas Davis. That’s enough to be on my hate list.
CB/S Charles Godfrey - He was supposed to win the slot cornerback/nickleback spot. He was supposed to transition away from the safety position. And instead a rookie, Bene Benwikere, outplayed him. To be honest, I am fine with him as a safety, and the trio of Godfrey/Thomas DeCoud/Roman Harper is plenty good enough with this front seven. But as a cornerback, he was constantly beat this preseason.
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