Insider's Take: Panthers v. Bucs

The Carolina Panthers have stumbled out of the gates at 0-2 and may have a new look when they return to Bank of America Stadium Sunday to host the Cincinnati Bengals. We analyze what worked, what didn't and what's next after a sloppy effort against the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

What Worked

--The running back trio of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson combined to carry 30 times for 117 yards. Stewart was the most efficient of the three, averaging over 5.3 yards on his eight attempts. Williams (two catches) and Goodson (three catches) also combined for 53 yards through the air.

--While it looks like Brett Favre could have used some reps in training camp, it is clear that's not the case for Steve Smith. The Pro Bowl receiver scored Carolina's lone TD for the second straight week, this time striking from 37 yards out on fourth-and-4. Smith finished with a team-high three catches for 66 yards.

--Carolina still doesn't have a legitimate No. 2 receiver, but it's clear who the team's No. 2 pass catcher is: Dante Rosario. The fourth-year tight end caught three passes for 47 yards against the Buccaneers, including a 26-yard grab on the Panthers' lone scoring drive.

--The run defense was on-point. The Buccaneers finished with 95 net yards rushing, but 43 of those yards came on scrambles by Josh Freeman. RB Cadillac Williams was limited to 27 carries and 51 yards (1.88 ypc). Starting linebackers Jon Beason, James Anderson and Dan Connor combined for 25 tackles in an active outing.

What Didn't

--Matt Moore may have played his way out of the starting position. He completed just six of 16 passes (37.5 percent) and turned the ball over twice. He struggles to read defenses and deliver accurate throws, a bad combination that has bogged down the offense. Jimmy Clausen has provided a spark while coming off the bench in each of the last two games; he may not have to wait so long for his next opportunity.

--The play-calling of Jeff Davidson was cripplingly conservative. He called runs on most first downs, doing so 16 of 19 times through the first 50 minutes. The Panthers started both halves with the familiar formula: run, run, failed pass play, punt.

--Armanti Edwards was always considered a developmental project, but it's a bad sign he couldn't escape the inactive list even with Brandon LaFell and Charly Martin both injured. Carolina has so little faith in Edwards that it deactivated him in favor of Dwayne Jarrett, who is so deep in the doghouse that he's coming off the bench behind rookie sixth-round pick David Gettis. Gettis, by the way, was picked 109 spots after Edwards and did not cost the team a potential top-40 pick in next year's draft.

--Josh Freeman toyed with Carolina's defense, as the Panthers were unable to get off the field. The Buccaneers won the time-of-possession battle, which is an upset in itself given Carolina's ground-and-pound approach. On Tampa Bay's two TD drives, the Bucs converted third downs of 10, 11 and 17 yards.

What's Next

The Panthers prepare for a dose of reality -- reality TV, that is -- as they host the Cincinnati Bengals (1-1). The Bengals come in with offensive issues of their own (has anyone else noticed Carson Palmer hasn't been an elite QB since 2007?) but still figure to give the Panthers all they can handle.

Cincinnati's defense is one of the best in the league, led by outstanding cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. If this really is Jimmy Clausen's first start as a pro, he'll be in for a stern test.

What did you take away from Sunday's loss? Sound off inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and also a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on Twitter.

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