(RE)MARKS: Cam’s shoulder, and throwing bombs. How did we even get here?
When your most important offensive (quarterback Cam Newton) and defensive (linebacker Luke Kuechly) weapons don’t play, you’re at a disadvantage. But that doesn’t explain away all the penalties, missed tackles and bad throws in a 27-14 preseason loss to the Buffalo Bills at Bank of America Stadium on Friday night.
Grading the Panthers in one miserable performance:
Passing offense: F
Kyle Allen got the first shot at quarterback, and completed just one of his first four throws, but at least he didn’t melt down the same way rookie Will Grier did by throwing into double-coverage for a 71-yard pick-6 by Bills cornerback Kevin Johnson on his second attempt. Grier, who also threw an interception against the Bears, was nearly picked off again later in the first half. The pass protection for this offensive line still needs a lot of fine-tuning for the unit with the biggest premium on synergy.
Rushing offense: D
The holding penalties — four in the first half, one declined — were distributed all through the Panthers’ offensive line. Because of all the penalties, it took three tries before rookie running back Jordan Scarlett got an official carry. After missing the first preseason game, Scarlett looked decent.
Rushing defense: D
The numbers didn’t look that bad, but the Panthers’ front seven got gashed too often in the first half to keep Bills drives alive. Particularly so on a 16-yard run by T.J. Yeldon. This 3-4 front needs a lot of tuning before the season opener against the Los Angeles Rams.
Passing defense: F
The linebackers who played, particularly Andre Smith and Jermaine Carter, Jr., couldn’t stay with Bills receivers on intermediate routes. The pass rush, which was remade after a rough 2018 season, got to Bills starting quarterback Josh Allen just once; he completed nine of his 11 attempts and the one sack was when Allen left the pocket and was pulled down by Mario Addison a yard behind the line of scrimmage. This defensive front at least has to pressure, and Allen didn’t look bothered out there.
Special teams: C-
Punt coverage leaves much to be desired. The Bills’ Andre Roberts had a 37-yard return early in this game. Carolina’s Colin Jones missed tackles on each of the two Panthers first-half punts. With Graham Gano sitting out, fill-in placekicker Joey Slye made field goals of 40 and 54 yards, Carolina’s only first-half points.
When there is one play when the Panthers had only 10 players on the field and another with 12 (a declined penalty because the Bills completed a touchdown pass late in the first half), that’s hardly organization.