The first week of 2009 Carolina Panthers training camp is now over. We went to the Tuesday afternoon practice and Fan Fest on Saturday. I left both events not really sure what to think about what this season entails for Carolina. Here is what I did see.
Jake Delhomme was constantly throwing to a member of the staff during every break in the action at Tuesday's practice. While he and Steve Smith looked sharp, there were moments where some of the back up receivers & Delhomme weren't on the same page. That same miscommunication carried over into Saturday's Fan Fest. It go to the point that a spattering of boos begin to sprinkle throught Bank Of America Stadium.
Deanglo Williams was getting the majority of carries with the #1 offense. Williams was only in a jersey and shorts Saturday and that gave rookie RB #33 Mike Goodsen out of Texas A & M get several carries. Goodsen made the most of that and did a nice job of finding holes and running hard.
Wide Receivers - Moose and Smith are marked with a pen as the starters, but there seemed to be a battle brewing for the number three spot between Ryne Robinson in his third year, second year man Kenny Moore from Wake Forest and third year man Dwayne Jarret from USC. Robinson looks slightly better than the other two. Some of that may be due to Robinson also doing return duties and he has had more touches and more chances to show his stuff. I was impressed with Moore on catching the ball, while he did have a couple of instances of either bad pass or wrong routes. With all the hoopla Jarrett had coming in from Southern Cal, he still hasn't lived up to the hype.
Tight Ends - We may see more of a two tight end set this year. Starter, Jeff King seems entrenched in that role now, but Gary Barnridge from Louisville, is getting a lot of chances also. We may see King play more in running situations while Barnridge play more in passing sets. As the season progresses, they could act as decoys to throw the opposing defenses off some. Could Barnridge be the next Dallas Clark? Quite possibly if we passed more.
Defense - It will be intersting to see how the group latches onto new Defensive Coordinator Ron Meeks schemes. The linebackers look to be the strongest so far of all the defensive positions. Speaking of Meeks, I think we should see a much improved defense with Meeks leading the D.
Julius Peppers - After watching him Tuesday, I have to wonder how much he really wants to be here. He wanted to leave Carolina in the off season, but they wouldn't trade him and pinned the franchise tag on him. He came to practice with fans yelling his name and he didn't acknowledge them. When he left at the end of practice, fans were yelling for him and imploring him to come over to the fence to sign some autographs. Peppers just slowly walked past every single fan with only a glance or two their way and never even stopped. Steve Smith did before and after practice. Mushin was one of the last guys to leave the field and he signed for about 50 fans. Jake Delhomme came out early and signed several things for fans before he had to leave to start practice. Not Peppers.
It seemed that at both pratices I attended that the team was going through the motions of camp. Most of the practices seemed lacadasical. The players seemed to play a little harder at fan fest, possibly only because it was BOA Stadium and they were in front of family and friends. Plus the practice only last one hour and 15 minutes, it was their only practice of the day and they get Sunday off.
Head Coach John Fox held most of the core group of starters out of the plays at fan fest. I guess we'll see how everything is going to work out once we have the first pre season game on Monday, August 17 against the New York Giants.
If I were to guess how this season will end up, I'll say we'll finish 8-8 and be lucky to make the playoffs. I'm just not all the fired up about this year as I was at this same time last year.