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October 04, 2006

Grading the Panthers' first quarter of the season

The first quarter of the season is over, so that means it’s time for some early grades on the Panthers:

QUARTERBACK: Jake Delhomme was hindered by offensive line problems early. But, now that he’s got Steve Smith back, he appears to be on track. GRADE: C

RUNNING BACKS: DeShaun Foster had a breakout game against New Orleans, but had some early struggles. Rookie DeAngelo Williams has had some bright moments and some ordinary ones. GRADE: C

RECEIVERS: Keyshawn Johnson has been the model of consistency. Smith has been a force the past two games, and the possibilities this combination bring are tantalizing. Drew Carter’s been an adequate third receiver, but Keary Colbert has disappeared again. The tight ends haven’t been used much in the passing game because they’re too busy helping out the offensive line. GRADE: B

OFFENSIVE LINE: The trouble started when left tackle Travelle Wharton went down with a knee injury in the first game and it hasn’t stopped. Center Justin Hartwig missed the past three games and there also have been shakeups due to injury and poor play. Hartwig might return Sunday and that could be a major boost. This unit has been scraping by, but needs to improve quickly if the team is going to be a serious playoff contender. GRADE: D

DEFENSIVE LINE: Julius Peppers, a notoriously slow starter, is out of the gates quickly. Kris Jenkins is making a strong return from two seasons of injuries. Free agent pickups Maake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis have been effective inside, but end Mike Rucker has been very quiet. GRADE: B+

LINEBACKERS: Dan Morgan has played only one game at middle linebacker, which has caused major problems. Adam Seward struggled as Morgan’s immediate replacement and the Panthers had to move Chris Draft to the middle. Second-year pro Thomas Davis is a wonderful athlete, but he’s still getting lost at times. GRADE: D+

DEFENSIVE BACKS: The pass coverage has been decent, but this is a unit that is still searching for its identity. Colin Branch has replaced Shaun Williams at strong safety and cornerback Ken Lucas needs to bounce back after his removal from the starting lineup last week. The message sent to Lucas was that he needs to tackle better, which can be said for the entire secondary. GRADE: C

SPECIAL TEAMS: John Kasay has been perfect on field goals and punter Jason Baker is quietly having a nice season. The return game has been ordinary, except in the Minnesota game when Chris Gamble’s botched lateral on a punt return cost the Panthers a victory. GRADE: B-

COACHING: John Fox and his staff deserve the blame for going with the Gamble play in Minnesota. But they also deserve credit for getting this team to 2-2 after all the early injuries. The real test comes in the next quarter. After Cleveland on Sunday, the Panthers face Baltimore, Cincinnati and Dallas. GRADE: C

SIMMS TO SPEAK: Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms, who suffered a ruptured spleen against the Panthers on Sept.. 24, is to address the media for the first time Thursday. Although Bucs coach Jon Gruden has said the injury took place on a fourth-quarter hit from Al Wallace, who was fined $7,500 for roughing the passer, Simms is expected to contradict that and say the injury took place on a first-quarter hit by Kris Jenkins.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 4, 2006 at 11:48 PM | Permalink

Comments

A very accurate assessment of all phases. I think that what the Panthers do against Cleveland this weekend will tell a lot of how good we really are. With a home game, coming of two straight momentum-offering wins, with some key players back, and playing against an average at best team, I believe we should win to the tune of 28-10 or so. If we struggle on either side of the ball that would not a good sign.

Posted by: Ron | Oct 5, 2006 12:01:36 PM

Big win over the Browns this weekend. I think that the defensive front is even better than we know. Droughns is a pretty good running back and he still got very little against us. We also realized that Steve Smith is human. You just can't drop TD catches in close games in the NFL.

Posted by: Will | Oct 9, 2006 2:26:17 PM

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