NFL: Panthers’ weaknesses exposed in loss to Giants

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Associated Press
SPARTANBURG, S.C. ó Panthers coach John Fox drew criticism in January for trying to sum up Carolina’s embarrassing playoff meltdown against Arizona by saying they simply “picked a bad day to have a bad day.”
Fox’s club had another suspect outing Monday night. At least this time they picked a good day for it: the exhibition opener.
The 24-17 loss to the New York Giants exposed many of Carolina’s weaknesses. They turned it over five times ó they’re up to 11 in the past two games ó while the Giants seemingly ran at will. New York brought to light depth issues on both lines and bounced off numerous would-be Carolina tacklers.
It left the Panthers with plenty on their to-do list as they returned here Tuesday to resume training camp.
“Coming away from it, it was definitely a measuring stick,” Fox said. “We have work to do.”
The Panthers entered the matchup of defending division champions knowing they need to bring in a starting-quality defensive tackle to replace Maake Kemoeatu, who was lost for the season in the first practice with a torn Achilles’ tendon.
The Giants, the NFL’s No. 1 rushing team last season, ran right at that soft middle, and undersized replacement Nick Hayden was unable to provide much resistance. Brandon Jacobs had a 22-yard run before Ahmad Bradshaw’s 19-yard TD run ó while running over cornerback Chris Gamble ó put the Giants ahead 7-0.
Two years after the Panthers made a preseason deal with Chicago to acquire safety Chris Harris, a similar deal may be in order.
“We just have to find somebody that can play or get somebody in here that can occupy some of the space that (Kemoeatu) took,” defensive end Julius Peppers told reporters after the game.
The reason the Panthers have so little depth on both lines is Peppers’ $16.7 million salary takes up about 14 percent of the salary cap. In his first game with Carolina after a tumultuous offseason where he tried to leave, Peppers was a non-factor. He put no pressure on Eli Manning and was credited with one tackle.
Osi Umenyiora had an impact for the Giants, however. He blew by left tackle Jordan Gross, sacked Jake Delhomme and forced a fumble.
DeAngelo Williams rushed six times for 29 yards, but Delhomme was just 5-of-9 for 38 yards and the starters, playing without receiver Steve Smith (shoulder), failed to score.
“We got some good work against a talented team, saw a lot of different pressures, which was good,” Delhomme said. “I kind of wish we could have sustained a drive.”
The backups took over in the second quarter, with mixed success.
Josh McCown, trying to hold off Matt Moore for the No. 2 quarterback job, threw an interception and lost a fumble. The game wasn’t decided until fourth-string QB Hunter Cantwell had the ball stripped and Tommie Hill returned it for the game-winning touchdown as time expired.
There were few answers to filling the numerous backup openings on the offensive line. Geoff Schwartz had the worst game of the bunch, allowing one sack that led to a turnover. He was later called for a tripping penalty and for not lining up on the line of scrimmage.
The good news centered on linebackers James Anderson, Jeremy Leman and Dan Connor, and running back Mike Goodson.
The fourth-round pick showed promise, with consecutive runs of 16 and 14 yards, the second a touchdown. But he also fumbled twice, and was assessed a 15-yard penalty for making a throat slash gesture after his TD.
“I’ll try not to do that anymore,” Goodson said.
Anderson had a sack and later blocked a punt that turned into a safety and the only first-half points or Carolina. Leman, the long-haired, high-energy linebacker continued his strong preseason with seven tackles. Connor (eight tackles) was solid in his first game since knee surgery.
Defensive end Everette Brown, a second-round pick, recovered from a poor start to record a second-half sack. But the rest of the defensive line showed little.
While general manager Marty Hurney seeks defensive tackle help, the Panthers have little time to address their other issues. Carolina visits Miami Saturday night.
“It’s just a start and I can’t wait to get back and watch the film and build on it,” Delhomme said. “This week is going to come up really quick.”