Welcome, Panthers Fans, to a new day and a new opportunity to raise our hopes for a glorious season. Well, preseason anyways.
Sir Purr begins the new season every year with his sparkler tipped flagged before the players are introduced.
Speaking of Sir Purr, I have a bone to pick with him. He has started photo bombing me on the sidelines. Here I am trying to get a picture of a gorgeous rookie Topcat and he slowly glides in with that catpoop eating grin. Curse you.
But enough with that, on with the football.
Cam Newton was labeled a captain for the first time in his career. He welcomed the change with his usual pregame enthusiasm on display. As players walk on to the field for warm ups, he calls out specific ones for a mid air collision. Here, Greg Hardy obliges him.
I was a bit surprised to see Taurn Poole get so many early snaps. I am still not too sure what to think about it as Poole has not gotten many first string reps in all of training camp. One possibility is that Poole is on the bubble. The coaches may want to see early what he is capable of and give him that opportunity. All things considered, I think Poole did well with the first unity but production dropped off when playing with the threes and fours.
Greg Hardy seemed excited just to get some pent up aggression out on someone not wearing a Panthers uniform. A few times the officials needed to try to calm Greg down a bit. In Greg's defense, the Bears Offensive Line were talking quite a bit and getting in a few extra post whistle shoves. Don't anger the Kraken.
Luke Kuechly looks to be in mid season form. Also a Captain this year, Luke has really stepped up his leadership game. Last season he would make the defensive play call in the huddle. This season, he is making the play call and giving further individual instruction and support.
The first string Offensive Line I felt held up well for a first preseason game. Amini Silatolu is starting to look worthy of a second round pick. The left side of the line will be a strength this season.
Kenjon Barner's first touch as a Panther was a fumble. That is not great. This promoted some fans to compare him to Deshaun Foster or Mike Goodson, which is both silly and sad all at the same time.
What was great was Barner's vindication. In a show of faith in the rookie, Mike Shula went right back to Kenjon in the next series. Barner rose to the challenge and had the best performance of any Panthers running back. He had the most yardage, the most yards per carry, and a touchdown. You should get used to seeing defenders around Kenjon's feet this season.
David Gettis has a lot to prove this preseason and he is off to a good start. You can't help to pull for this guy. He has had obstacle after obstacle and still he strives to be a contribute.
Chase Blackburn is fun to watch on the field and on the sideline. It seems his motor doesn't simply stop when the play ends. Chase is probably the most vocal defensive veteran since Mike Rucker.
I don't think anyone predicted Josh Norman to be the MVP of the game. Norman exited the Rivera Doghouse in epic fashion, and he took a football with him.
This was by far the most exciting play of the game. The players standing around me erupted and screamed SIX as soon as Norman caught the ball. Josh headed directly to the jump zone after scoring the touchdown where fans were eager to congratulate him.
Which brings me to my final observation.
Cam Newton is a new man. He hasn't dimmed his enthusiasm or his love of the game, but he has added a sense of confidence. Not confidence in himself, he has always had that. But a confidence in his team. Cam was much more vocal and engaging on the sidelines. He offered encouragement, advice, and support to any player in a Panthers uniform. This folks, is maturity. Cam was the biggest cheerleader for Norman's reception and touchdown. His enthusiasm was contagious to the entire team.
It appears Cam Newton 2.0 has arrived.
Also.... I want that hat!