Carolina Panthers

Panthers never get on track, lose sloppy home preseason opener to Bills

(RE)MARKS: Cam’s shoulder, and throwing bombs. How did we even get here?

In our first episode, we break down Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton's shoulder, his timeline through injury and how he came to throw bombs during his first day of training camp in Wofford.
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In our first episode, we break down Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton's shoulder, his timeline through injury and how he came to throw bombs during his first day of training camp in Wofford.

To the hundreds of Carolina Panthers unable to get into Friday night’s game on time, thanks to a hold-up with mobile tickets:

You were the lucky ones.

Alison Krauss said it better, but the sentiment is the same. The Panthers just looked completely off-kilter against the Buffalo Bills, and the eventual 27-14 loss only reaffirmed how badly the team got thumped.

A number of key Panthers sat out — including Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Greg Olsen, Christian McCaffrey and Shaq Thompson — but just about everyone who stepped foot on the field deserved a share of the blame.

Quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Will Grier will attract headlines for their putrid play at a primo position, but they didn’t have much help. The starting offensive line was beaten several times and committed a number of varying penalties that stifled drives.

And defensively, things weren’t much better. Carolina’s first-team pass-rushers at least got pressure on Buffalo QB Josh Allen, including a sack by Mario Addison on the first drive of the game, but the Bills still marched almost everywhere they wanted. Allen and backup Matt Barkley only had four combined incompletions, not to mention 212 passing yards between them — and that doesn’t include the Panthers’ missed tackles in run defense.

Speaking of missed tackles, special teams had their fair share of those, too.

Overall, this was one of those “Burn the tape” nights. The lone silver lining?

The games don’t count for another three weeks.

Three who mattered

Josh Allen: In comparison to the Panthers’ dismal passing attack, Allen hummed along nicely for the Bills. He went 9-for-11 for 102 yards and kept numerous plays alive by escaping Carolina’s pass-rush.

Andre Smith: It was a mixed bag for the former UNC star, who was beaten several times early in pass coverage but rebounded nicely with a fumble recovery for Carolina.

Lorenzo Doss: His third-quarter interception in the end zone practically came off an arm punt — the pass hung in the air for what seemed like ages — but it was a takeaway for the Panthers’ overmatched defense nonetheless.

Observations

In its two series against Buffalo’s first-team offense, the Panthers defense struggled dramatically, especially defending the middle of the field. Slot receiver Cole Beasley especially had his way against backup linebackers Jermaine Carter Jr. and Andre Smith. More than that, both Carter and Smith were beaten over the top on deeper routes to the tight end.

It was hold-a-palooza on the offensive line, but the most damning part was who was committing those infractions. Starters Taylor Moton and Trai Turner both were called, as were backups Greg Little and Dennis Daley. And while center Matt Paradis didn’t hold, he did get shoved backwards one play in the first quarter after a defensive lineman nearly knocked his helmet off.

For the second preseason game in a row, the Panthers’ special teams unit struggled defending the return game. Colin Jones, a special teams captain in 2018, missed two tackles in punt coverage, and the Bills racked up 58 return yards overall on only four attempts.

Both Allen and Grier struggled, but Grier was definitely the worse of the two. He completed 10 of his 19 passes, but only for 75 yards — and that doesn’t count the 71-yard pick six he threw on his second attempt. That sort of bad read, into clear double coverage and without looking elsewhere, should give the Panthers pause about making him Newton’s primary backup.

You could only really say one person helped himself Friday, and for the second week in a row it was kicker Joey Slye. With Graham Gano out nursing a sore leg, Slye hit both of his field goal attempts. The one before halftime, a 54-yarder, is the kind of kick that will make him attractive as a trade target around the league.

Worth mentioning

With the Panthers moving entirely to mobile ticketing, Friday was the team’s first real chance to test the system on a live game night. And as was the case when the Denver Broncos made that transition last season, there were substantial issues. Hundreds of fans got stuck outside the stadium as the game kicked off due to, among other things, misunderstandings about how the tickets actually had to be scanned off cell phones.

One of the few bright spots of the night? Midway through the first half, a group of Charlotte 49ers football players were shown on the jumbotron, including walk-on defensive back Christian Haynes. The screen then broke the news that Haynes had received a scholarship... and his teammates understandably went berserk.

Newton cut the middle out of his bucket hat and let his hair poke through the center roaming the sidelines. So, that was fun at least.



Brendan Marks is a general assignment sports reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, NASCAR and more. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked for the Observer since August 2017.
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