After having been unceremoniously knocked off the mountaintop by the Denver Broncos six months ago, the Carolina Panthers restarted their trek to immortality Thursday night in Baltimore.
Unfortunately, the defending NFC champions failed to chalk up their first win of the new campaign, falling to the tune of 22-19 to the Ravens in a particularly sloppy outing. They did, however, learn a bit more about themselves as they head into the second week of preseason play.
Who stood out? Who didn’t? And did head coach Ron Rivera make any headway in determining who gets a full uniform come September?
Well, here’s what was poppin’ and floppin’ with the Panthers in their exhibition loss at M&T Bank Stadium last night:
- WR Brenton Bersin: The third-year wideout was, undoubtedly, Carolina’s top performer of the game. Bersin’s totals of five receptions and 69 yards both accounted for game-highs in helping him stake a claim for the roster’s No. 5 receiver spot. His best catch came on a 3rd-and-17 when backup Derek Anderson connected with the blonde baller for a 23-yard gain, setting up a 10-yard touchdown to Devin Funchess on the next play.
- QB Cam Newton: Football’s reigning MVP made the most of his one drive, completing five of his six attempts for 36 yards. Two of his completions landed in the hands of tight end Greg Olsen, who went for 13 yards on the pair of receptions.
- Cam’s hat: Whether you think Cam resembles Pharrell Williams or the Arby’s logo, his confidence has to be on some type of astronomical level to rock that thing the way he does. Kudos to yet another one of his fearless fashion statements.
- WR Damiere Byrd: Thursday night may not have ended like he wanted it to with a muffed punt, but Byrd gave us a glimpse of what he’s capable of. The speedster brought back two explosive returns of 48 and 30 yards and hauled in a beauty of a 35-yard, one-handed reception from Joe Webb.
- DT Eric Crume: The 330-pounder was one of the more active defenders for Carolina, highlighting his showing with a strip sack of Ravens quarterback Josh Johnson.
- Michael Phelps: United States Olympic swimmer and bajillion-time gold medalist had his performance in Rio broadcasted on the big screen during this very game. The Towson, M.D. native had everyone in the building simply captivated, including both teams who actually stopped play to get a look.
- Offensive line depth: This may have been absurd to say a year ago–but if Michael Oher were to go down, the Panthers could be in a heap of trouble. Second-string tackle Daryl Williams took over duties on the blindside to absolutely no avail. Yikes. Williams is a solid piece, just not for that particular spot.
- Running backs: Jonathan Stewart’s backup of Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron-Artis Payne and Brandon Wegher was noticeably slow out of the gate. The trio combined for a miserable 23 yards on 18 carries. Maybe one of them should have tried to break out a run during Phelps’ race when nobody was looking.
- DE Mario Addison: Addison nailed a punt returner after he had called for a fair catch. And, needless to say, his head coach was not happy.