First-Team Offense Struggles Again
For the second consecutive game, the first team offense for the Carolina Panthers struggles. Against the Buffalo Bills, the Panthers only mustered eight plays over their first two drives but ended on a high note with a touchdown on the third drive.
Against the Dolphins, the offense struggled and didn’t get to end on that high note with two punts, an interception and a turnover on downs over their four drives. They really struggled to move the ball and it was only on the final drive that they were able to pick up a first down.
Cam Newton is one player who will want to forget this game, completing only four passes on 10 attempts for 42 yards and one interception. If Newton is to have an excuse for this game, it would be the fact that Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess were both out for this game.
It is never easy for a quarterback when he loses his number one wide receiver, but Newton will have to get used to this with Benjamin out for the entire season with an ACL injury. The third preseason game is usually the really test run for the regular season and it is going to be important for the Panthers’ offense to have a strong game.
Offensive Line Looks Greatly Improved
The starting offensive line this year versus last year at this time is greatly improved. Against a strong Dolphins defensive line, Newton was kept relatively untouched. According to Pro Football Focus, the Panthers’ starting offensive line only gave up one QB hit, three QB hurries and most importantly zero sacks.
The newest addition to this line, left tackle Michael Oher had the best game of the starting offensive lineman based on Pro Football Focus’ ratings with a positive score of 1.4. Left guard Andrew Norwell was not far behind him with a 1.3.
However, all these positives can be wiped out pretty quickly if Ryan Kalil’s injury is serious. The veteran center suffered a knee injury and his night ended early. Last year, Kalil was the only constant on a consistently changing offensive line. He is the leader of this group and any missed time by Kalil will be a serious blow.
Reserve Running Backs Continue to Play Well
For the second consecutive game, Jordan Todman and Brandon Wegher had impressive games. These two combined for 49 rushing yards on 11 carries and Wegher found the end zone twice. This is the second consecutive game that Wegher had the deciding touchdown, with a 42-yard receiving touchdown against the Bills and a four-yard touchdown run against the Dolphins.
The Panthers coaching staff will have some tough decisions as they start to cut down this roster because of the strong performance of players like Todman and Wegher. One player who has to be concerned would be Fozzy Whittaker, who has struggled in the past two games. He only has seven rushing yards on six attempts this preseason.
Shaq Thompson Makes a Strong First Impression
One of the players I wrote about watching ahead of this game was first-round rookie Shaq Thompson. The outside linebacker missed the first preseason game against the Buffalo Bills and was expected to play against the Miami Dolphins.
Well, he played the first half against the Dolphins and didn’t disappoint. The thing that stood out the most watching Thompson was his speed and his play against the pass. He was able to run down the field with tight end Jordan Cameron and break up the pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
That speed also allowed him to close quickly on a dump pass to running back Lamar Miller, who was only able to pick up one yard and was kept out of the end zone. There is still plenty of room for Thompson to grow but this was a great first step in his NFL career.
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