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MNF observations on the Panthers

8/17/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

When faced with injuries in the past, Carolina coach John Fox usually tells his team that a rescue isn't coming from the outside.

The Panthers better hope their coach takes a different route this time around. The thing that was most obvious in Carolina's preseason debut on Monday Night Football against the Giants was that there's a gaping hole in the middle of the defensive line. We've known that since starting tackle Maake Kemoeatu went down with a season-ending injury on the first day of training camp.

Second-year pro Nick Hayden got the start in Kemoeatu's place Monday night. Let's face it, Hayden's a player the Panthers think can be a nice backup, but he's not the answer as a starter right now. The Giants ran right over the Panthers and they didn't even game plan for this one. Imagine what they would have done if this were the regular season and they wanted to exploit Carolina's problem?

Hayden's not a run stuffer and neither is fellow starter Damione Lewis. There aren't any other viable options on the roster, although the Panthers do believe rookie Corvey Irvin can develop into a decent player in a year or two.

If nothing else, Monday night provided final evidence that the Panthers need to go out and get a big body to put next to Lewis. They're not going to find a superstar this time of year, but Kemoeatu didn't fit that profile. He was just a very ordinary tackle who could take up a lot of space at 350 pounds.

The Panthers still can come out of this as good or better than they were before the Kemoeatu injury. They just need to go out and find somebody to rescue them.

It's not impossible. There are going to be a lot of wide-body tackles coming available in the next few weeks as other teams trim their rosters. They also could look to trade for a defensive tackle on another roster.

Some other observations on the Panthers from Monday night:

  • I know a lot of fans were calling for quarterback Jake Delhomme's job after his disastrous performance in the playoff loss to Arizona last season. But one of Fox's other favorite sayings is "consider the alternative'' and that applies here. Backup Josh McCown threw an interception and lost a fumble. Ironically, David Carr, the guy a lot of Carolina fans thought might beat out Delhomme in 2007 before flopping miserably, actually looked pretty good for the Giants.

  • Rookie running back Mike Goodson has looked good in camp looked very good at times Monday night. He had a nice touchdown run in the third quarter. But I'm not sure Goodson secured himself much playing time in the regular season. Goodson also had trouble holding onto the ball and drew an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for making his gesture after his touchdown. That's not going to sit real well with Fox.

  • I thought Carolina's depth at linebacker was a strength even before the game. It's better than I even thought. Second-year pro Dan Connor, who got hurt early last year, had a strong night and can play inside or outside. James Anderson, who's been quiet the last couple of years, had a big night with a sack and a blocked punt. Anderson's showing could help make Landon Johnson expendable. Keep in mind, Johnson is carrying a pretty big salary and the Panthers may need some cap room to stabilize the situation at defensive tackle.

  • Encouraging debut by rookie Everette Brown. He's not ready to be an every-down player, but looked like he might be able to contribute right away as a situational pass rusher.