Week 1 of the NFL’s preseason -- where we all overreact to how a bunch of backups look playing on regional TV. Let’s all overreact together after watching the Panthers, minus their starters, beat the Bears, 23-13.
Starter Kyle Allen got four series and looked fine -- 7 of 11 for 79 yards, including 2 of 4 on third down. On his two third-down misses, he missed badly, one throwing to the left sideline, the other deep right in the end zone. Rookie Will Grier made everyone in the Carolinas grimace during his first series when he immediately followed up a poor screen pass with an interception in triple coverage. Grier did throw a touchdown pass to Elijah Holyfield in the third quarter.
The offensive line gave up three sacks and quarterbacks were hurried five times.
The biggest concern was the running game. In the first half, Carolina netted 16 rushing yards on 12 attempts, including a fumble by Holyfield that turned into a Chicago touchdown six plays later. The Panthers rushed for 96 yards total.
The switch to the 3-4 was good to Carolina on Thursday. The Panthers sacked Bears quarterbacks four times and held them under 200 net yards through three quarters (252 total). There were lapses in pass defense -- especially against screens -- in the second quarter that let Chicago score a touchdown shortly before halftime.
Pay attention in the preseason to the way Brian Burns uses his hands -- he has great technique and his finesse with them helped him pick up two sacks in his NFL debut. Expect a lot of this from the Panthers’ first-round draft pick this season.
Special teams: A
Any team looking for a kicker might want to consider picking up Joey Slye. Three seasons removed from a great career at Virginia Tech, Slye went 3 for 3 on field goals, including a 55-yarder that squeaked through the right upright but had plenty of distance to spare. He also had four touchbacks on six kickoffs.
Jaydon Mickens, Rashad Ross and Terry Godwin all returned punts, with Godwin leading the way -- 2 for 79 yards highlighted by a 57-yarder.
Coaching: A ... for ‘Acceptable’
It’s the first preseason game and no starters played -- how much is there really to critique? By keeping the starters out, risk of injury was minimized.
Kudos for the bootleg run with Kyle Allen on fourth down in the first quarter. The Panthers had zero traction running the ball, and on fourth-and-1, Allen faked the give middle to Cameron Artis-Payne before keeping and running around the outside for two yards. Slye kicked a 42-yard field goal four snaps later to put Carolina up 3-0.