Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, September 12, 2006 6:23 am

Falcons 20, Panthers 6

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 6:23 am

Can you say “ugly”? I thought you could.

First, to take nothing away from the Falcons, their defense is GREATLY improved with the addition of Lawyer Milloy and, especially, defensive end John Abraham, acquired during the offseason from the Jets. Abraham might be the only DE in the league as quick as Julius Peppers, and he had himself a day — two sacks, both resulting in fumbles.

That said, the Panthers made two changes to the O-line in the offseason, but even before Travelle Wharton went out with a knee injury, the line was looking very, very bad. Even Jordan Gross, a former first-round draft pick who’d actually played some left tackle, didn’t do much good against Abraham. You’d think, given the problems the franchise has had almost every year of its existence with the O-line, that team management would have taken more care in this area. You’d think. And to judge from Sunday’s game, you’d be very, very wrong.

If only the problems stopped there.

I realize that Atlanta led the league in rushing last year, but a healthy Kris Jenkins and free-agent pickup Maake Kemoeatu at the tackles were supposed to provide an answer. They didn’t. Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood ran for almost 200 yards between them. And when four of your top five tacklers are your starting secondary, you know you’ve got problems in the front seven.

A word about the tackling. Actually, several words: Sloppy. Unfocused. I could go on, but you get the point. I trust John Fox’s film session yesterday was long and painful on that point.

And then there were the injuries. Steve Smith, the league’s top receiver, didn’t play. Middle linebacker Dan Morgan went out early with yet another concussion. The aforementioned Wharton (although his injury apparently is not as severe as first thought) is done for the year. Without healthy starters, this team will not win the division. One or two more injuries at key positions, and this team will not break .500.

And there’s one position where even a healthy starter might not help: running back. I questioned the Panthers’ decision to give DeShaun Foster the big bucks and the featured-back gig. I’m not feeling any better about that decision after Sunday. Foster looked indecisive and took WAY too long to start trying to hit a hole and get downfield. I realize the disruptive play of the Falcons’ D-line was a big problem, but at some point, if you’re the featured RB, you’ve got to just start trying to move the pile on your own. Not only didn’t I see the ability to do that, I didn’t see any effort.

I realize I’m a pessimist by nature, but this team has given me reason for pessimism over the years. It could still get its act together and go to the Super Bowl as predicted, but a lot of things are going to have to change for that to happen.


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