Panthers Fall in Preseason Debut

The Carolina Panthers lost a sloppy 17-12 decision to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday in the preseason opener for both teams. Here's a look at what worked, what didn't and what's next for John Fox's team.

What Worked

FB Tony Fiammetta
Larry French/Getty
--Jimmy Clausen did as well as could be expected with his first live-game action. He completed eight of 15 passes for 80 yards and one interception, which came when WR Dexter Jackson slipped and fell on an out-route. Clausen showed poise in the pocket and led the Panthers on a 10-play scoring drive for their first points of the game.

--Even without Jonathan Stewart and Jeff Otah, the running game was still dominant. DeAngelo Williams (five carries and 33 yards), Josh Vaughan (11 and 48) and Tyrell Sutton (four and 32) combined to average a healthy 5.65 ypc. A strong effort by Tony Fiammetta helped pave the way for the running game's success.

--Carolina's pass rush proved it could get the job done without Julius Peppers. The Panthers posted six sacks on Thursday. Tyler Brayton led the charge with a pair of sacks in the first eight minutes of the game, although he rolled his ankle on the second sack and didn't return. Rookies Greg Hardy (two) and Eric Norwood (one) also got in on the action, as did Nick Hayden (one).

--CB C.J. Wilson, who has been sensational thus far in training camp, took his playmaking skills prime time on Thursday. In the first quarter, he made a diving pass break-up. In the second quarter, he scooped up a fumble forced by Eric Moore and returned it 31 yards for Carolina's only TD. Wilson also contributed three tackles.

What Didn't

QB Hunter Cantwell
Larry French/Getty
--The turnovers were killers. Sutton fumbled while inside the Baltimore 2-yard line, denying the Panthers their best chance for an offensive TD. Also, Clausen's interception ended a drive that began at midfield.

--The pass protection was atrocious. The Panthers gave up seven sacks. Hunter Cantwell went down three times and looked tentative in the pocket, likely giving up any chance he had to beat out Clausen for the backup QB position. The inability to keep a clean pocket is a big reason why Carolina converted just three of 16 third-down attempts (18 percent).

--Offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson was hoping one of his young receivers would step up and claim a spot in the rotation. Instead, no receiver registered more than two catches or 35 yards. This unit still has a lot of unanswered questions with the regular-season opener less than a month away.

--There were too many miscues on special teams. Jason Baker bobbled a snap on a field-goal attempt at the end of the first half. After intermission, John Kasay botched an extra-point attempt that would have tied the game. In the return game, rookie Armanti Edwards did too much dancing on his punt returns rather than turning up the field. He bumped into fellow rookie David Gettis on one return, demonstrating the dangers of having too much youth on the return teams.

What's Next

The Panthers return to the practice field at Wofford College at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The team will have just over a week to prepare for its first home game of the season, as the New York Jets come to town for the second preseason game for both teams on Saturday, Aug. 21.

What are your thoughts on Thursday's game? Share them in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.

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