Tag Archives: Houston Texans

Carolina Panthers coaches, players disappointed by lack of effort in preseason opener

The Carolina Panthers first preseason game of the 2012 season was not pretty. The offense bogged down, the special teams did not help much and the team played with little emotion. Yes, it was the first game, and despite the lack of game-planning by the Panthers, if they are truly committed to being a contender this season, things have to change…and quickly.

Carolina Panthers’ safety Haruki Nakamura (43) assists on a tackle Saturday night against Houston. Photo courtesy Gerry Broome – AP

“Even though it’s preseason, you use the preseason to make a point around the league. Whether it’s your backups (or) your starters, you’re here to prove a point,” free safety Haruki Nakamura said. “That’s to let everyone know we’re going to be a physical football team. We’re going to be a sound football team, a disciplined football team.

“One thing that coach Rivera says (is) when one of our team leaders puts a big statement out there like Ryno did, it’s our job to back him up,” Nakamura added. “It’s not a coach’s job. It’s not the owner’s job. It’s our job as a team and as players to step up and prove that we’re behind him

Nakamura knows something about urgency. As a member of the Baltimore Ravens for the past four seasons, he backed up All-Pro Ed Reed, and Nakamura knows he has a great opportunity this season with the Panthers. He also knows what it takes to get to the postseason, having experienced it with the Ravens.

The Panthers are down to their final three days left in Spartanburg before breaking camp on Wednesday. Add to that a short week – their second exhibition game is set for Friday evening against the Miami Dolphins in Charlotte – and the team has a lot to do.”We definitely were really a vanilla version of our offense out there. I mean, we’ve got a massive playbook and we only ran a little bit of it,” left tackle Jordan Gross said. “With that being said, you need to win no matter what we’re running.”

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera watching the action Saturday night in Charlotte. Photo courtesy Bob Leverone – AP

Panthers coach Ron Rivera was not pleased.”I was truly disappointed, to be very honest with you. I expected some other guys to step up and make some plays and some guys didn’t. That is disappointing,” he said. “When you have an opportunity to play this football game, you have to play it with a sense of urgency and we didn’t do that, especially in the second half. To me that was very disappointing and I will work to get that corrected because it falls on me.”

While Cam Newton (2-6-0, 17 yards) led the team to a field goal in his 13 plays, backup Derek Anderson (7-12-1, 99) worked a lot. And third-team quarterback Jimmy Clausen (3-6-0, 24)was sacked five times and fumbled once…not the kind of beginning you want to have.

“I do not accept that as football and I am disappointed in those men that are on our football team,” Rivera said.

“Last year we played them in the regular season and had a good showing in their home stadium. It’s unacceptable for them to come in here and us not really perform the way we want to in our own stadium,” running back Jonathan Stewart said. “That’s the mindset of this year. And I think he wants to get his point across off the bat – that’s not acceptable.”

Houston had 20 first downs and 375 net yards against just 12 and 137 for the Panthers. And the Texans had a huge 37:41 to 22:19 advantage in time of possession.

Carolina Panthers special teams disappoint against Houston

The Carolina Panthers preseason opener was a lackluster affair…a meaningless 26-13 loss to the Houston Texans Saturday night in Charlotte. One of the Panthers’ weak spots last year continues into this season – special teams.

The Panthers tried to fix their special teams over the offseason by hiring an assistant special teams coach, signing several free agents with strong special teams resumes and selecting a punter and a kick-returner with two of their seven draft picks. But, at least in this game, it didn’t seem to matter.

Houston’s Trindon Holliday returned this kickoff 90 yards in the first quarter in the Texans’ 26-13 win against the Carolina Panthers Saturday night in the preseason opener for both teams.

After tying the game at 3 each in the first quarter, the Panthers allowed Houston’s Trindon Holliday to return the subsequent kick 90 yards. Coach Ron Rivera was not happy about that, and neither were the special teams players nor the fans in Bank of America Stadium. Justin Medlock‘s short kick (to the 10 yard line) gave Holliday a running start – something you do not need to do when facing one of the league’s fastest players.

“Any time a kick returner can catch that ball going forward like he did, it doesn’t give your coverage an opportunity to get all the way down in position,” Rivera said. “Then we’ve got to get off blocks.”

That didn’t happen. New Panthers free safety Haruki Nakamura, one of the special teams pickups, said the coverage team was to blame. “We brought in guys specifically to fix those problems and none of us are happy about it. It had nothing to do with the call. It had nothing to do with the kick. The coach makes the call, we kick it and you’re supposed to run down and tackle him. That’s on us as players, and we didn’t do it.”

Medlock, the former CFL player is competing with incumbent placekicking veteran Olindo Mare. While he has looked great in camp, remember he was cut after his first NFL game when he went 1-of-2 in field goals. I hope he gets more chances because he has a tremendous leg. His kickoff to the 10 yard line is not good enough in the NFL, however. In fact, Rivera said that play was the biggest disappointment of the night. Mare sent both of his kickoffs into the end zone, one for a touchback. Mare made a 33-yard field goal in the first quarter and Medlock made a 48-yard field goal in the second quarter with plenty of distance to spare. Rivera said neither kicker gained an advantage.

Brad Nortman, the rookie punter (sixth round pick from Wisconsin) hit a 57-yard field goal from the end zone and it had good hang time, forcing a fair catch.

In the second half, fourth-round pick Joe Adams from Arkansas fielded a punt on the left sideline, reversed field and ran up the right sideline for a 34-yard return. This was great to see, as Adams is not only fast, but he is quick, too. Quick gives you a chance to go fast in the league.

The game was scripted, and Rivera said his starters would play between 12 and 15 plays. Newton was in for 13 plays, and set up Mare’s field goal, before giving way to veteran Derek Anderson.

First round pick Luke Kuechly started at weakside linebacker and made four tackles and forced a fumble in his NFL debut. “Luke came out and showed what he’s capable of doing in terms of football plays,” Rivera stated. “He came off the sideline and said, ‘Man, that was fast.’ Once he got past that first series you saw what he was capable of.”

He was named the starter Friday after the team listed Thomas Davis (strained calf) and linebacker Jon Beason (hamstring) as out for Saturday’s game.

“For me it was fast. That’s the biggest thing I remember,” Kuechly said. “The first play of the game I lined up on the wrong side of the ball. It was a learning experience. The speed of the game is a lot faster, even in practice. Practice moves as a certain pace but even the tempo of the previous play is a lot quicker.”

Rookie linebacker (and first-round draft pick) Luke Kuechly strips Houston’s Arian Foster of the ball after Foster had run for a first down.

Kuechly’s best play came when Houston running back (and former Pro Bowler) Arian Foster had run for a first down, but Kuechly ball stripped out of his hand and cornerback Sherrod Martin recovered it at midfield. Kuechly’s four tackles topped the defensive list.

Jonathan Stewart, who signed a new five-year contract extension just before kickoff, did not get much work, but he did make a 13-yard reception for a first down.

The offense didn’t do much with short field, and Rivera was disappointed in the second- and third-teamers in particular. He witnessed the offensive line giving up sight sacks, including third-team quarterback Jimmy Clausen going down five times and also losing a fumble.

Third-team quarterback Jimmy Clausen was sacked five times and fumbled once in a tough 2012 debut for the Carolina Panthers Saturday night.

At the end of the game, the locker room was quiet…not much to celebrate…a point Rivera made to his players. “It was simple. He wasn’t happy. And it was evident why. The effort out there wasn’t good enough. Every time we come out and play in front of our fans we have a point to prove,” Newton said. “At points in the game, myself included, it was lethargic and we could have put more effort into it. We never like to have those types of (post-game) meetings.”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was sacked once, but led the team to a field goal in his 13 plays Saturday night against Houston.

To me, you never know what kind of team you have until you play a game. The Panthers have shown good tempo and effort at camp, other than one time this week when Rivera had to stop practice to get the team’s attention. Going up against a good Houston team shows there is a lot of work to do this week, and over the course of the preseason if the Panthers are going to give New Orleans and Atlanta a run this season.

The first game is just kind of an exercise in getting the cobwebs out. Looks like there is a lot of cleaning left to do.



Carolina Panthers: Preseason opens Saturday vs. Texans

The Carolina Panthers open the 2012 NFL Preseason at home Saturday night against the Houston Texans. The first exhibition game usually features starters in for a series or two, but mostly, it gives teams a chance to hit someone new (see: New York Jets fights on Monday and Tuesday this week).

Cam Newton, 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year, is poised to lead the Panthers to a better season in 2012.

Looking to build on their strong finish in the 2011 season, Carolina (6-10 in 2011) wants to get Rookie-of-the Year Cam Newton off to a great start. Wide receiver Steve Smith enjoyed one of his most productive years of his career in 2011 and should be Newton’s favorite target again, along with tight end Greg Olson, who is enjoying a very productive camp.

The offense, ranked in the top ten last year in both yardage and scoring, included three 700-yard rushers (Newton, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart) for the first time in NFL history…and four of five starters on the offensive line will be returning as well.

Second-year head coach Ron Rivera has a staff that returns virtually intact, and that staff had the entire offseason to work together – something they did not have in 2011 due to the work stoppage in the NFL.

This first game will showcase several of the outstanding rookies drafted by the Panthers including first-round pick Luke Kuechly (Boston College) at linebacker; Midwestern State’s huge offensive guard Amini Silatolu and cornerback Josh Norman each fighting for a starting spot on the team.

Brad Nortman is the first punter ever drafted by the Panthers. He will address a huge need for the special teams!

The kicking game is going to continue to be interesting to watch. At punter, sixth-round pick Brad Nortman(Wisconsin) has been competing with 12-year veteran Nick Harris. Both have looked good in workouts, with Nortman seemingly having the bigger leg. The incumbent placekicker, Olindo Mare is in a battle with former CFL star Justin Medlock. And the return spots are being hotly contested between rookie Joe Adams (Arkansas) and veterans Kealoha Pilares and Armanti Edwards.

“It’s been a good camp and we are excited about playing a game,” said Rivera. “The Texans were in the playoffs last year and are a team people talk about when predicting possible AFC champions so this will be a good test for our football team.”

Several players will be returning from injuries that sidelined them last year, and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is counting on their presence to make a big difference this season. Linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, along with tackles Ron Edwards, Terrell McClain and Sione Fua can’t wait to get the season underway.

Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy and a backfield that includes four returning starters in cornerbacks Chris Gamble and Captain Munnerlyn and safeties Charles Godfrey and Sherrod Martin plus linebacker James Anderson, who set a team single season record last year with 174 stops gives the injured returners and draftees players they can look up to and learn from. The coaching staff is looking to improve the defense and like the fact that players have been competing hard from day one in camp.

“Because of the injuries last year, we were able to get playing time for a lot of different players and we hope that will pay off this season,” Rivera stated. “We have liked the tempo we have seen from our defense in training camp and it will be interesting to see how they respond against a playoff team like Houston.”


    * This will be the first preseason meeting between the two teams. In the regular season, the Texans hold a 2-1 lead in the series, with the Panthers’ lone win coming last season, 28-13, in Houston.

* As of now, the ONLY rookie UNOFFICIALLY on the first team is Silatolu (LG). Kuechly (LB) and Nortman (P) are listed on the second team, along with newcomer Medlock (PK). But that’s just after a few days in camp.