Observations on the Panthers

Now we know for sure that John Fox no longer is coaching the Carolina Panthers.

If you saw their preseason opener (a 20-10 victory against the New York Giants) on Saturday night, there was plenty of evidence.

There was offensive creativity. There were passes to the tight end. Young quarterbacks were allowed to take shots down the field and not forced to play like each mistake would be their last. Oh, and we also saw quite a bit of Armanti Edwards.

All of the above were either illegal or heavily frowned up on in the Fox regime. Under Ron Rivera, they all are encouraged.

We still don’t know for sure if Cam Newton or Jimmy Clausen will open the season as the starting quarterback, but we do know whoever wins that competition might actually have a chance. Clausen and Carolina’s offense had no chance last season as Fox took conservative offense to a whole new level.

In new coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s system, it’s pretty obvious the Panthers are going to use their tight ends a lot and, once Steve Smith gets back from an injury, they could have a deep passing game.

Heck, Edwards could even be a part of the deep passing game. The wide receiver, who Fox refused to play as a rookie, caught a 36-yard pass from Newton to help set up a field goal late in the first half. More importantly, Edwards had two very impressive punt returns.

Some other observations on the Panthers.

  • Without Smith and David Gettis, who will miss the season with a knee injury, the wide receivers had trouble getting separation from defensive backs. Smith’s return will help and we all know what he can do, but the Panthers need someone else to step up on the outside.

  • Newly-acquired tight end Greg Olsen got off to a very nice start. He had three catches for 58 yards and caught a touchdown from Clausen. Olsen’s performance brought back memories of Wesley Walls and Jeremy Shockey's going to get his share of passes.

  • Speaking of tight ends, Gary Barnidge, who currently is No. 4 on the depth chart, is helping his cause. He had a nice game and could challenge Ben Hartsock for the third tight end job.

  • Running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart only made cameo appearances, but both ran well. As much as we talk about the new offensive scheme, Williams and Stewart are too good for the Panthers to go too far away from the running game.

  • Speaking of running back, Mike Goodson has plenty of talent and he showed it last season when Williams and Stewart were banged up. But Goodson had trouble holding onto the ball Saturday night. He’s not going to earn playing time if that continues.

  • There’s strong competition for the backup spots in the defensive secondary. A couple of young guys who helped themselves with good performances were R.J. Stanford and Jordan Pugh.

  • Derek Anderson, who was brought in to provide a veteran presence for Newton and Clausen, connected with rookie Kealoha Pilares on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass. It was a short throw and Pilares took off down the sideline. Pilares also had a nice tackle on the punt coverage unit early in the game.