To overreact after a few series in the first of four exhibition games is to be a fool.
I wrote several times last season and again in training camp the past two weeks that the absence of a pass rush ought to be Carolinas biggest concern. Nothing I saw in Houstons 26-13 preseason victory against the Panthers changed my mind.
Question: How much time did Houston quarterback Matt Schaub have to throw?
Answer: As much as he needed.
On his first drive, the Texans drove 65 yards to the Carolina 2. Schaub threw five passes and completed three for 52 yards. On third down from the Carolina 2, he didnt immediately see the receiver for which he was looking and quickly threw the ball away.
Again, it was one series. But it was as if Schaub was on a recliner, arms behind his head, watching the play develop, finally putting down his drink, careful not to spill it, getting up and leisurely throwing to a receiver or a tight end.
Houstons next two series ended quickly with a fumble and an interception.
Fans love to blame Carolinas defensive backs, particularly Captain Munnerlyn, for getting beat. But if a quarterback has time, a defensive back will get burned. Its practically a rule.
We know that defensive end Charles Johnson can play a little. We dont know whether hes a star. We dont know whether a pass rusher will emerge on the left side. We dont know whether Carolina will have to rely on tricks to attempt to consistently generate pressure.
A defensive end Ive enjoyed watching in camp is reserve Thomas Keiser. At 260 pounds, hes undersized. But hes quick. He made Carolinas first sack early in the fourth quarter, albeit against Houstons third team.
Other observations from Bank of America Stadium Saturday night:
• Cam Newton was sacked once and scrambled once for 15 yards. When Newton takes off running, everybody watches. Its like being at the ballpark when a great hitter steps to the plate. Even fans who dont want to be there put down their cellphones. A 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback with power and speed who runs with grace is tough to ignore. Newton passes, too. He completed his first throw to Steve Smith for 4 yards and his fourth pass to Jonathan Stewart for 13 yards. He finished 2 for 6.
• Tough to see anybody go down with an injury in a practice game. Carolina cornerback Nate Ness did with 1:56 remaining in the third quarter. Ness was down for perhaps 3 minutes. The longer he stayed, the more concerned teammates and fans became.
Accompanied by what looked like four bodyguards, the Panthers escorted Ness to the sideline. As he was led past his fellow defenders, tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo and end Frank Alexander reached out and tapped his hand. Good news: Ness walked without assistance. Coach Ron Rivera says Ness might have sustained a concussion.
• Panthers play of the evening: Carolina rookie punt return man Joe Adams started near the left sideline and the journey began. He ran for more than 10 seconds and broke at least four tackles. As Adams ran past the Panther bench on the right sideline, a long arm reached straight into the air. It was Newtons.
Newton began to chase Adams and was there to help him up at the conclusion of the 34-yard return. Carolinas longest punt return last season was 17 yards.
• Not saying that the replacement officials who worked the game are slow. But if they were to leave Charlotte at 9 a.m. to drive to Carolinas training camp in Spartanburg, S.C., it would be dark by the time they arrived.