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In My Opinion

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For Panthers fans, game was a glass half empty

Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for 20 years and has been at the paper for 25, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/09/00/33/lWF8I.Em.138.jpeg|358
    David T. Foster, III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Carolina Panthers' Kenjon Barner (25) works to bring down Buffalo Bills' Nickell Robey (37) on a punt in the second half of their preseason game at Bank of America Stadium on Friday. Buffalo won, 20-18.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/09/00/34/rpRKt.Em.138.jpeg|220
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    (Center) Carolina Panthers running back Kenjon Barner (25) fights his way up the middle of the Buffalo Bills defense during first quarter action at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Friday, August 8, 2014.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/09/00/33/VGQ4N.Em.138.jpeg|279
    David T. Foster, III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Carolina Panthers' Mike Tolbert (35) stretches during warmups prior to playing the Buffalo Bills in their pre-season game at Bank of America Stadium on Friday, August 8, 2014.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/08/21/59/kgYjq.Em.138.jpeg|202
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Despite losing his helmet, Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman (24) is able to stop Buffalo Bills running back Anthony Dixon (26) at the goal line on a rush during second quarter action at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Don’t want to overreact to the first half of the first practice game.

However, the first half is when teams play their starters and top reserves.

And Buffalo’s defensive line handled Carolina’s offensive line.

Panthers starters failed to open holes against Bills’ starters.

The second-team line failed to open holes against Buffalo’s second team.

In the second quarter Panthers coach Ron Rivera sent most of his starters in to supplant the second-team line, and Buffalo’s second-team handled them.

To be fair, Carolina’s top two backs, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, didn’t play. Williams rested and Stewart rested an injured hamstring.

The Panthers began their first drive on their 2 and starting fullback Mike Tolbert carried twice, both times going up the middle for 1 yard.

That was it for Tolbert. The Panthers then handed the ball to Kenjon Barner and on his first carry he picked up 8 yards.

Some of us have been waiting to see what Barner can do. He was a legend at Oregon. Sleek and fast, he ran for more than 100 yards in a game 13 times. It was as if he had his own show on YouTube.

If you’ve seen Barner in camp, you’ve seen flashes, glimpses, hints of his talent. Friday was a night to give him space and watch him work.

There was no space. There also were no broken tackles. Although he’s added 14 pounds since last season – he played at about 181 pounds as a rookie – he’d get hit and go to the ground.

Barner ran five times after his first carry and lost 3 yards. He looked fast in his white uniform and silver helmet. But he was all dressed up with no place to go.

Again, people who believe they can discern the truth after watching 27 first-half plays in early August at Bank of America Stadium are either (a) deluded or (b) in desperate need of attention.

But there are more questions about the offensive line than any other position, and nothing that transpired Friday suggests they’re going away.

To go to Carolina’s training camp in Spartanburg is to be mesmerized by rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who has made a series of stunning catches. I saw him track one down so far out of bounds I thought a kid was going to reach over the Gibbs Stadium bleachers and pluck the ball out of the air. But Benjamin is 6-foot-5, and if he wants the ball, it’s his.

Benjamin wanted the ball on the first play of the second quarter against the Bills. On first down from the Buffalo 29, he ran deep left and lost his footing as he approached the end zone.

You think Benjamin needs to be upright to catch a pass?. He does not. As long as he was falling he figured he might as well grab the ball, and he did.

If fans get one great play out of an exhibition, they’re doing all right.

Fans got one great play out of the exhibition. Buffalo won 20-18.

Sorensen: 704-358-5119; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen
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