Carolina Panthers

Panthers-Titans instant analysis: Funchess, 2nd-team D, returners must step it up

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess (17) hasn’t done much in preseason, catching a 4-yard pass against Houston and an 8-yarder Saturday at Tennessee, which he then fumbled.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess (17) hasn’t done much in preseason, catching a 4-yard pass against Houston and an 8-yarder Saturday at Tennessee, which he then fumbled. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Instant analysis from Panthers-Titans on Saturday:

1-Devin Funchess put Panthers in an early hole.

Former GM Dave Gettleman is gone, but I was reminded of his offseason comments about the starting WRs on Saturday when Devin Funchess fumbled on the Panthers’ first offensive play.

Speaking of Funchess and Kelvin Benjamin, Gettleman said: “Their games have to mature. You’ve got to be a pro. We all get there.”

Benjamin has bounced back from offseason weight gains with strong showings in the two exhibitions. Funchess hasn’t done much of anything, catching a 4-yard pass against Houston and an 8-yarder Saturday, which he then fumbled.

It’s an extremely small sample size in games that don’t count, but Funchess needs to step it up.

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera talks about what he saw in the preseason loss against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. He also addressed Cam Newton's recovery.

2-The second-team defense keeps getting gashed.

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Carolina Panthers linebacker David Mayo (55) dives for the legs of Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) for a tackle during Saturday’s game in Nashville. Mayo started in place of Luke Kuechly (sore ribs). David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

As was the case in the first exhibition against the Texans, the No. 2 defense was roughed up by the Titans. That second group was missing middle linebacker David Mayo, who started in place of Luke Kuechly (sore ribs).

But reserve linebackers Ben Jacobs and Jared Norris were nowhere to be found on running back David Fluellen’s 53-yard run in the second quarter. Second-team safety Colin Jones had a shot at Fluellen as he hit the hole, but couldn’t make the play.

3-The returners made some poor choices.

The Panthers started their first three offensive series at their 10, 18 and 10 – thanks in part to some bad blocking and odd decisions by the returners.

Damiere Byrd, one of the stars in the first exhibition, fielded a 59-yard punt by Brett Kern at the 4-yard line rather than letting it hit and taking a chance that it would roll into the end zone. Byrd managed only six yards on the runback.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera wasn’t too bothered by returners bringing the ball out of the end zone, but did say a couple of times they should have stayed put.

I get that Byrd is doing all he can to make the team and his speed makes him a threat to go the distance on nearly every return. But sometimes a touchback is a good play.

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David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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