NFC South: 081712 preseason obs

Observation deck: Dolphins-Panthers

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
11:41
PM ET

Some quick observations on the Carolina Panthers’ 23-17 victory against the Miami Dolphins on Friday night at Bank of America Stadium:
  • At least for one half, the Panthers looked a lot like the New Orleans Saints. The first-team offense put up 20 points and the stat sheet looked a lot like it does when the Saints are in top form -- everyone gets involved. Both the running game and passing game were clicking. DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert were effective on early runs and made an impact as receivers. Quarterback Cam Newton spread the ball around to Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Greg Olsen. Newton completed 8 of 11 passes for 119 yards with one touchdown.
  • The offensive line had a very good night. Newton had strong protection, especially on long passes to Olsen and LaFell early in the game.
  • With Newton, you almost expect Carolina’s offense to be good. So the real bright spot of this game might have been the defense. The Dolphins didn’t pick up a first down until late in the first quarter and scored only seven points in the first half.
  • There was a scary moment in the second quarter. Stewart, who signed a five-year contract extension last week, seemed to hurt his knee. He stayed down briefly and walked out without much difficulty. But he left the field a moment later, surrounded by members of the medical staff. Team officials told the media Stewart suffered a calf injury that is not believed to be serious.
  • Defensive end Thomas Keiser appears to be well on his way to solidifying a roster spot. Keiser produced two sacks in the first half.
  • I’d like to see third-team quarterback Jimmy Clausen get to play behind the first -- or even the second -- offensive line. Coaches and team officials say Clausen had a very nice training camp, but he hasn’t had a chance to do much of anything behind the third-string offensive line.
  • The Panthers were penalized 17 times for 145 yards. I'm sure that will be a topic of conversation when they return to practice.

Observation deck: Jaguars-Saints

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
11:35
PM ET
Some quick observations on the New Orleans Saints’ 27-24 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome:
  • After looking very good in the first two preseason games, the first-team defense didn’t have a good outing against the Jaguars. It is only the preseason and, ordinarily, you could say the Saints still are getting into Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme. But this one deserves at least a little concern. Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert looked better than he did at any point in his rookie season. Gabbert completed 13 of 16 passes for 112 yards. Plus, it wasn’t like Gabbert had Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield. Instead, Rashad Jennings was the main ball carrier and he had 62 yards on 11 carries in the first half. The Jaguars had 101 rushing yards in the first half.
  • There were a couple of Saints' injuries that didn’t look good. Linebacker Chris Chamberlain appeared to injure his knee and receiver Andy Tanner was carted off with an apparent injury to his left leg. No details on the injuries were available immediately, but losing either player for an extended period could hurt. Tanner, who had a nice training camp and start to the preseason, is competing for a roster spot as the fourth or fifth receiver. Chamberlain, who played for Spagnuolo in St. Louis, has a shot at being a starter or key backup.
  • Drew Brees didn’t get a lot of help from his offensive line early on. Brees was sacked and lost a fumble with 9:00 left in the second quarter. But Brees bounced back and the Saints had a nice drive late in the first half to cut Jacksonville’s lead to 17-10. Brees finished the night completing 10 of 13 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown.
  • Backup quarterback Chase Daniel had a very efficient outing. He completed 16 of 21 passes for 185 yards and two touchdown. Daniel led what should have been the game-winning drive, connecting with running back Travaris Cadet on a 24-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. But Jacksonville rallied for a touchdown with 13 seconds left to keep Daniel and Cadet from being the heroes.
  • Defensive end Junior Galette continued his strong preseason, putting pressure on Gabbert several times. I think Galette could end up starting as Will Smith serves a suspension for the first four games. After that, Galette could be a regular in the rotation because he has some explosiveness as a pass-rusher.
  • Giving 110 percent, as Raheem Morris said he always did, cornerback Elbert Mack tipped a third-quarter pass that turned into an interception for Isa Abdul-Quddus. Mack, who came over from Tampa Bay, has a chance at a roster spot as a backup cornerback and special-teams player.

Observation deck: Titans-Buccaneers

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
10:42
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- Some quick thoughts on the Buccaneers’ 30-7 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Friday night at Raymond James Stadium:
  • I don’t want to speculate too much on LeGarrette Blount's injury, but it’s a pretty major concern any time a running back suffers what appears to be an injury to the knee or leg. Blount went down with 2 minutes, 18 seconds left in the first half. He stayed on the ground for a long time and the medical staff appeared to be looking at his left leg or knee. Blount eventually left the sideline and went to the locker room, presumably for further testing. Blount had a strong training camp and had gotten the start in each of the first two preseason games. Blount appeared to have a shot at keeping his starting job or at least get serious playing time in tandem with rookie Doug Martin. But, if Blount’s injury is serious, Martin might have to be a do-it all running back. Rookie Michael Smith, Mossis Madu and De'Anthony Curtis would be candidates for backup duty if Blount is out for an extended period.
  • I’ll let you know if coach Greg Schiano has any update on Blount’s injury in his post-game press conference. But I’m guessing it might be a day or two before we know anything for sure.
  • Tampa Bay’s run defense, especially on the second level, struggled. The Titans ran for 123 yards in the first half and Chris Johnson seemed to stroll into the end zone on both of his touchdown runs.
  • Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck combined to throw for just 37 yards in the first half. Give Tampa Bay’s pass defense some credit for that. But Locker might have helped the Bucs look good as he completed just 4 of 11 passes for 21 yards while getting the start.
  • Safety Ahmad Black had Tampa Bay’s biggest defensive play of the night. He intercepted a Locker pass and returned it 29 yards to the Tennessee 2-yard line. Two plays later, Josh Freeman hit Mike Williams with a touchdown pass.
  • Freeman had an unspectacular outing. He completed 4 of 10 passes for 21 yards before giving way to Dan Orlovsky.
  • I’d say depth on the offensive line is an issue. Orlovsky was sacked four times. Mobility is not his strength, but Orlovsky didn't have a chance most of the time.

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