Miscues Mar a Defensive Gem

All offseason, the focus has been on the wholesale youth movement of the Carolina Panthers. During Saturday's 9-3 loss to the visiting New York Jets, the "youth" was on full display but the "movement" was nowhere to be found.

There is a reason the defense is usually ahead of the offense in training camp; and there is a reason why young defenders typically acclimate faster than their offensive peers. It is because defense is about instincts while offense is about execution.

Carolina's young defenders showed terrific instincts in Saturday's contest while giving up just 112 yards, an average of less than 8 yards per Jets possession.

Second-year DE Everette Brown nabbed a pair of sacks on New York's first possession, spearheading a pass rush that recorded five sacks on Saturday and now has 11 through two preseason games.

Ron Meeks' unit also forced two fumbles thanks to aggressive gang tackling and relentless pursuit of the football.

The first fumble was forced by Marcus Hudson and set up Carolina's only points of the night, a 42-yard field goal by John Kasay. The second fumble was forced by Mortty Ivy as the Jets were at the 9-yard line going in.

The Jets finished with just seven first downs. They converted five of 19 third downs (26 percent) and averaged less than 2 yards per play.

Yet New York still won the game.

DT Tank Tyler
Mary Ann Chastain/Getty
The reason, of course, is that Carolina's offense and special teams were terrible. The passing game was completely out of sync despite Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen taking all the snaps under center. Moore completed only 35 percent of his passes and was picked off on just his third attempt.

Clausen sparked the Panthers in the second half and authored the team's best drive late in the game. However, Drew Coleman jumped a pass intended for David Gettis to snuff out any comeback hopes.

Carolina's young receivers didn't do much to help out their quarterbacks, proving unable to gain much separation or hang onto passes in traffic. Dwayne Jarrett led all receivers in receptions with three -- albeit for only 17 yards -- but may have solidified his roster spot as the team saw just has dangerously immature its passing attack is.

The only other receiver to catch more than one pass was Armanti Edwards (two for 19 yards). However, his night will be remember more for the two punts he mishandled in the first quarter. He neglected to field one despite not warning the blockers in front of him, then muffed the next one to result in two quick turnovers and six Jets points.

Kenny Moore, whose one catch for 26 yards was enough to lead all receivers in yardage, also fumbled a punt in the third quarter as three of Carolina's five turnovers came on special teams.

Captain Munnerlyn averaged an impressive 12 yards on his three punt returns, including a long of 24, but even he bobbled his first attempt.

The Panthers also gave up a 67-yard punt return to Joe McKnight, ensuring special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers goes home with some more gray hairs on his head.

The special teams will improve as the season gets closer. Those units are always suspect in the preseason as teams throw together units of mostly deep reserves to give live-game looks to different players.

Carolina's passing game, however, remains a serious concern. Coach John Fox hopes things will improve next week when the team hosts the Tennessee Titans. While the Jets and Baltimore Ravens (Carolina's first preseason opponent) both finished in the top-eight in total pass defense last season, the Titans finished last in their conference.

Also, the third preseason game is where the starters get their most extended run, which would make it an excellent time for the Panthers to score their first offensive touchdown.

What are Panthers fans saying about Saturday's loss? See in the message boards.

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

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