Sunday night showed improvement for the Panthers, who put together an impressive 28-16 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Here are some of the items of interest my camera found.
Cam Newton now has to be doubly sure there are no logos showing during the game. After last season's Under Armour helmet visor clip debacle, Cam has no interest in getting the attention of lazy journalists looking for a negative story about him.
Here an equipment assistant blacks out a logo with a sharpie.
Once done, Cam was ready for warm ups...
It didn't take long for Cam to need his legs. The night started out bumpy for him, the Chiefs eager to test his still healing ankle.
Cam seemed to hold up well and seemed as elusive as ever. Sending a defensive back to tackle Cam Newton is rarely going to work in the defender's favor.
Eventually, the line settled down and adequate protection was provided. The offensive line is, by far, the biggest area of concern on this football team. Newton went 4-9 on the night passing. His overthrow of Kelvin Benjamin, who was open down field, was evidence of rust needed to be shaken off in full game speed situations. The Panthers quarterbacks were afforded as much time as they liked in camp, a luxury not allowed by the Chiefs defense.
Nate Chandler appears to be staying at right tackle. Byron Bell played pretty well last night, and if Coach Rivera's words are true, has won the left tackle position.
Nate Chandler is still very new to the position, and each game presents a new learning experience for him. These preseason games are huge in terms of his development. His time on the field is extremely important, as his his time on the bench where he is mentored by veteran center and lumberjack apparel model Ryan Kalil.
Deangelo Williams looked the same as last season, average. He had 3 carries for a total of 9 yards. His five yard carry was his highlight of the night.
Jonathan Stewart, on the other hand, stole the show. It was obvious immediately that Stewart providing a spark in the running game that has been sorely missed. Stewart ran for 26 yards on only 4 carries, and had two touchdowns. A stark contrast to Deangelo's performance.
One thing I love about Stewart is his patience behind his blocks.
He frequently keeps a hand on his blockers, waiting for the perfect time to hit the hole. Once in space, he is still fast enough to gain yards quickly, while being difficult to bring down.
The offensive line played well for Stewart. It must help when they can immediately see the results of their hard work. It is a positive thing for the Panthers when I can take a photo of Jonathan Stewart prancing in for a touchdown without a defender near him. I don't recall that happening last season.
After Kenjon Barner was done with a sub par running performance, Fozzy Whitaker took over and made a case for replacing Barner in the third string lineup. Whitaker showed the type of effort the dedicated fans who stayed in their seats throughout the game appreciated. You would be hard pressed to find a Panthers fan today who would want to cut Whitaker in favor of Barner.
Whitaker eventually hit pay dirt with a little help from Richie Brockel who led the way.
RB Darrin Reaves needs to hurry up and get healthy or else I may have to reevaluate my running back depth chart projection.
Jason Avant's 25 yard reception on a 3rd and 16 play was a reminder of why he is on this team. Avant beat his man and was able to bring in a Cam Newton pass when it was needed the most. This is the type of receiver play that the Panthers were missing much of last season. People talk about Benjamin being the replacement for Brandon Lafell, but I think Avant may be.
Brandon Williams also provided a nice highlight with his 31 yard reception. (Much to the delight of Melvin White)
Brandon showed that strength we all have been watching for as he refused to go down, no matter how many defenders tried to make him. "Swolebones" may be finding his rhythm in the receiving game.
On the defensive side of the ball, there were quite a few items of interest.
Greg Hardy was disruptive to the Chiefs offense whever he was in the game. While he didn't get a sack, his pressures helped the defense tremendously.
Also, his white contact lenses still make me do a double take.
I have been singing the praises of Wes Horton for a while now, taking note of his solid (but quiet) camp performance. Horton spent time with the first and second string on Sunday night, ahead of Frank Alexander. Curious when Coach Rivera proclaimed Alexander a camp MVP.
Antoine Cason had a brilliant night. He frequently snuffed out the Chiefs plays on his way to a team leading 6 tackle night.
And then there is Josh Norman.
Josh Norman just can't seem to get out of his own way sometimes. Headbutting another player in a preseason game is about as silly as it gets. His actions drew the ire of linebacker Thomas Davis who got on his case quickly.
I am not sure what Norman said to Davis in return, but it made matters worse. A good way to tell when you have gotten the wrong kind of attention from Thomas Davis is when an official needs to come by and make sure there isn't an altercation between teammates.
I am a Josh Norman supporter, but I just cannot understand how he still is unable to control his temper.
There are a few more individual stories of interest I will be sharing in new articles today. Stay tuned....