Thanks to our modern-day technological miracles, I flipped on the ol’ DVR Sunday night and sat down to re-watch Saturday’s preseason tilt between the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans. Yes, I willingly watched a rerun of preseason football, so take that, Mr. I-Get-Paid-To-Watch-Football-And-All-I-Do-Is-Complain-During-The-Game-Even-Though-I-Am-A-Texans-Beat-Writer.
I know preseason is preseason, but there were some strong performances and some not so-strong performances. I do not want to use names, but Alan B. – wait, that may be too obvious -- A. Ball did not look good at all.
If you want to delve deeper into Saturday’s game, jump with me and my obsessive-watching tendencies.
- Antoine Caldwell played 24 snaps at right guard. Overall, it was probably the best Caldwell has played. He was active in the run game and stood his ground in the passing game. I have him marked down for two negative plays, one where his man put pressure on Matt Schaub with a quick inside move and a run play where he missed his block and the unblocked man made the tackle.
- While Caldwell eased my concerns, Rashad Butler did not. Butler missed three cut blocks, each resulting in his man making a play, and got absolutely destroyed by a second-team defensive end in the red zone. Butler also was not as physical as Derek Newton in the run game. Newton had some struggles in limited first-team pass protection, but I would take that over Butler’s performance on Saturday.
- The only bad thing I could say about Keshawn Martin was that maybe he did not hold one of his run blocks as long as he could have. That is about it. He performed very well with the first and second teams. Martin showed a knack for finding soft spots against the zone and the speed to pick up additional yards.
- Garrett Graham did his best Owen Daniels impersonation with three catches for three first downs. He looks to have a better understanding of the pass offense and made some nice blocks in the running game as well.
- Luke Kuechly gave Chris Myers some fits. He was simply elusive and able to avoid Myers’ blocks during those first three drives. Kuechly’s got star written all over him. To his credit, Myers was stout in pass protection.
- Matt Schaub’s interception was a result of a well-timed cornerback blitz that hit him as he threw. Nobody missed their block, so there was nothing that could have been done there. Sometimes the defense just makes a good play.
- Shelley Smith EASILY stole the show on the second-team offensive line. I have never seen a guard be so active in getting up and making a second-level block. In the long second quarter drive, I have Smith down for seven good blocks where he clearly and cleanly beat his man either with pull blocks or by getting up to the second-level.
There was one play that stands out because Shelley Smith acted like a defensive lineman and ripped his way up to the linebacker. Honestly, Shelley Smith looked strong, mobile, and dominant. I cannot stress enough how impressed I was with Mr. Smith.
- T.J. Yates showed growth on Saturday night. He looked far more comfortable in the pocket and showed some ability to look off defenders. He looks like a very good back-up quarterback.
- It is not fair to judge Case Keenum for Saturday. The line he had in front of him was bad, especially the raw Nick Mondek, who struggled with the speed of the pro game. Keenum did show some athleticism by escaping pressure twice, but a better assessment will be made against San Francisco’s backups. John Beck, despite some strong throws, did not run away and hide with the job.
- Kareem Jackson’s name appears twice in my notes – both for good plays. On the first, Jackson watches Cam Newton the entire time and makes a great break on the ball. He should have picked it off and ran the other way, but a pass break-up is still a plus. The second play had Jackson keeping pace with Steve Smith and keeping Newton’s passing window incredibly small. It was only two preseason plays, but Kareem showed something positive.
- I know some think I am unfair to Brooks Reed, but I was not overly impressed with him on Saturday. His sack came on a defensive audible to an empty backfield. On back-to-back plays in the last series for the first-team, Reed (a) failed to recognize a screen pass his way and (b) ran himself out of a pitch run in his way. To his credit, he did recognize a draw play on Saturday but couldn’t shed the blocker. Reed needs to continue working on his hand-use.
- I had Shaun Cody marked down for a good play, so I have to make note of that. Brandon Harris also made two good tackles, so I will write that down as well.
- Whitney Mercilus flashed some of the skill that made him a first round pick. I have a few plays marked down where he shed his block and got in on the tackle. His first sack is an example of this, as he kept his arms extended, drove the tackle back, and shed him for the sack. His half-sack showed him using a strong rip and dip move to get to the quarterback. The Mercilus One had two plays where he didn’t hold the edge, but his ability to shed blockers is better than Reed's, in my eyes. Mercilus also dropped into coverage a few times to mixed, at best, results, but he's a pass-rusher.
- Derek Anderson picked on Alan Ball almost exclusively in the second quarter. Ball could not turn his head and locate the ball. One of his pass interference penalties was bad, as the receiver pushed off him, but that was a brief reprieve from terrible coverage. No Texan looked as awful as Ball did on Saturday.
- Tim Dobbins had a nice game as well and probably should have started ahead of Mister Alexander. Dobbins had good timing, as his 1.5 sacks and additional tackle for a loss came when he delayed a step, found a hole, and ran downhill.
- Small note, but the defense consistently wrapped up on Saturday. This is a very nice fundamental to see. Another small note: Carolina only scored two field goals due to turnover-aided short fields and a touchdown due to three pass interference calls (two of them awful). Do you want a third small note? Jimmy Clausen certainly made the third-team defense look stellar.
- In the battle between Shayne Graham and Randy Bullock, Fat Randy got more work overall on the night with two extra points and an additional kickoff.
Graham had the better kickoff units, as his kicks averaged a starting field position on the CAR 20 while Bullock’s were on the CAR 23, helped by a 20-yard penalty.
Both kickers went 2-for-2 on field goals, but Bullock wiped away any marginal victory by drilling a 52-yard field goal with plenty of leg to spare. Bullock’s kick landed halfway up the net, so that’s plenty exciting to have a kicker not limited after 50-yards.
- The primary returner for the night was Trindon Holliday, who finally had a breakthrough. Holliday was average on three punt returns, primarily due to poor blocking, but excelled with kickoffs with an average of 53 yards per return. Even when you remove the 90-yard return for a touchdown--more on that in a second--he still averaged 34.5 YPR.
The key difference in Holliday on Saturday was his running style. Holliday wasn’t afraid of contact and, much to my surprise, seemed to bounce off shoulder tackles. Also, he wasn’t just relying on his speed to blow by people, as Holliday showed patience to let the wedge form.
On the return touchdown, Ben Jones blocks the first Panther down the field, James Casey makes the key second block, and Graham sealed off a lane. Holliday then lets Troy Nolan, he of the amazing interception, make a block before he jukes the kicker. Shiloh Keo makes the final important block before Holliday turns on the afterburners.
- Davin Meggett did attempt to field two punts, but he fair caught one and let another bounce into the end zone for a touchback.
That is all the noteworthy material I have in the game notes. Did I miss anything you want to call out? Anything I catch surprise you? Sound off in the comments, BRB faithful.
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