Luke KuechlyThe third NFL preseason game is known as the ‘tune-up” game for the regular season. Most of the starters play into the second half and it gives a feel of how prepared the team is for the regular season.

If that’s the case, then the Carolina Panthers might need to head to the film room and get to studying as their performance Sunday night on national television didn’t exactly enthuse their viewing audience.

Although the Panthers came away with a 17-12 victory at Met Life Stadium in New York against the Jets, there were various areas that need to be addressed on the field.

The first-team offensive unit struggled with protection all night and Newton was under duress for the entire first half because of the Jets' constant blitz packages. When offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski went to the run game, DeAnglo Williams put two fumbles on the ground (did not lose one however), Mike Tolbert injured his knee and Jonathan Stewart injured his right ankle and was carted off to the locker room.

When coach Ron Rivera addressed the team’s struggles, he noted that the Panthers were missing a key piece.

“We do miss Steve, we’ll be honest about that,” Rivera said.

Steve being veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, who missed the game with a foot infection and did not make the trip to New York.

Smith opens up a lot of the passing game and even helps with the rushing attack. His vertical threat makes the offense open up and keeps the defense on his heels. His absence plagued the first-team all night.

“Offensively, we got to do a better job of sustaining drives… and get back and finish them,” quarterback Cam Newton said.

There were some highlights from the game nevertheless, as rookie outside linebacker Luke Kuechly continues his incredible preseason as he notched 10 tackles on the night.

Another linebacker you may have heard of returned to action and delivered when the opportunity presented itself.

“It felt good to get out there with my teammates, I just wanted to get out there and get that first play behind me,” linebacker Thomas Davis said after returning to action for the first time in over year.

Davis tore his ACL for the third time last season and has been resting an injured calf in this year’s training camp. Davis will look to become the first NFL player to return to the playing field after three torn ACL’s.

The Panthers have until 4 p.m. ET today to get the roster cut down to 75 players then they will shift focus to Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers before they make the final roster cuts to get to the ultimate 53-man roster before opening the regular season.

 

Panthers Pick-Six

  1. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn had the Panthers' first interception off of a tipped pass from Mark Sanchez which led to the Panthers' first touchdown of the game, a Cam Newton three yard throw to Louis Murphy.
  2. The Jets still have not scored an offensive touchdown in this year’s preseason.
  3. Kicker’s Justin Medlock and Olindo Mare did not miss on the night. Rivera said earlier this preseason that he would like to have a starting kicker after this game.
  4. Via DeAngelo Williams' Facebook page: "Well got all my fumbles out the way now let's play ball and j Stewart is ok!" Stewart was seen after the game however on crutches. Tolbert’s injury is not believed to be serious.
  5. Defensive end Thomas Keiser has had a sack in every preseason game this year. 
  6. Rivera says starters will probably play one series against the Steelers on Thursday night.