Carolina Panthers vs. New York Jets Preview: What to Watch For
The Carolina Panthers and their fans are in for a treat. They get to appear on NBC’s Sunday Night Football this week, for the entire nation to see. And even better, they get to travel to New York to play. Oh, and they play the Jets, a team that has looked absolutely pathetic on offense.
It could be another interesting matchup to tune into, as the Panthers’ improved defense continues to come together heading into 2012. It will also be a good test for Carolina’s offense, as the Jets’ defense is still no joke.
Needless to say, there’s plenty of motivation to check this game out, and everyone can because it will be nationally televised. From Cam Newton to Tim Tebow, check out the top five things to watch for in Sunday’s preseason game:
No one can get enough of Tim Tebow. Even the haters click every article that’s out there, just to see a few more negative words about his accuracy or throwing motion. And Tebow backers and/or Jets fans read and watch all they can about Tebow to learn more about his actual role within the Jets’ offense. After two weeks of preseason ball, we still have no clue. All we know is that he still isn’t very accurate, and he still runs really well. Perhaps we’ll get a better look at what kind of packages he’ll run in Sunday night’s game. Or maybe we’ll see another debacle like his 5-of-14 passing performance from last week. Either way, it’s undoubtedly going to be must-see TV.
2. Cam Newton vs. Jets Defense
Cam Newton was a little suspect in week one of the preseason, but really looked sharp last week. But week three is going to be the test I’ve been waiting for, to see if Newton is going to get better, regress, or just kind of stay the same. Staying the same would probably be acceptable, but the sky is the limit due to his immense talent. It would definitely be very encouraging if Newton stepped into the fire against the Jets and led multiple scoring drives and just lit a solid defense up. Brandon LaFell is emerging as his number two receiver and he should make better use of Greg Olsen this year, as well. The Jets have one of the best secondaries in the league and look to have a pretty solid run defense, as well. It will be worth watching to see if Newton can exploit any of their weaknesses.
3. Carolina’s Running Game
Who doesn’t love the Panthers’ backfield? DeAngelo Williams is the explosive burner with nice versatility. Stewart is the bruiser with nice shake and soft hands. And Mike Tolbert is the faster than advertised plodder who can honestly just do it all. I’d like to see how these trio of quality running backs handles the New York Jets this week, but more importantly I want to pay close attention to how they’re used.
D-Will is the unquestioned starter right now, but what will the rotation be like? Who is being used more near the goal-line? Just how active is Tolbert on passing downs or in short-yardage situations? These are all questions Panthers fans in general will want to know, but will also hold huge implications for fantasy football owners. We know Carolina can run the ball with the best of them. But now we want to know what the order will be in the backfield. A quality test in the Jets should help clear some answers up a bit.
4. Jets Running Backs Not Named Shonn Greene
Shonn Greene is slow, unathletic and disappointing. He can run in a straight line and has solid power behind his legs, but that’s really about it. He lacks any explosiveness. He doesn’t have good elusiveness. He’s not very fast. I could go on and on about what he can’t do, and can sum up what he can do in one sentence. The point is, the Jets are trying to turn back into a run-heavy offense, and they simply don’t have the tools to get it done. That’s why it’s crucial for New York to give his backups plenty of grind in this third preseason game, to see if any of them show any semblance of a player that can really push Greene. It’s already beyond sad that none of them have to this point, but perhaps one or two show some life and start heating things up a bit.
If the Jets are getting closer to week one and Greene is stuck as their starter, they might want to think seriously about bringing in a veteran off the street or trading for another team’s backup that has some potential. Even Ryan Grant would be an upgrade at this point.
5. Carolina’s Defense vs. Jets’ Offense
I know Carolina is still getting the ball moved on them and they’re still giving up some points, but they’re improving. It’s very visible that rookie linebacker makes a huge impact on the run defense, and he seems to always be involved on every play. I really like what I’ve seen out of rookie defensive end Frank Alexander, as well, and the entire unit as a whole seems to be more cohesive. They’re working together and growing, but they’re not done getting better just yet. They still have a lot of things to improve. With that said, they’re holding teams to more field goals, and tightening up in the red-zone. They can give up yards and field goals all year long. As long as they can turn into a bend-but-don’t-break defense, that will be major progress compared to what they did in 2011.
Obviously facing a weak Jets offense isn’t a tall order, but that’s precisely why I’m interested in how the defense performs in this game. Are they going to get walked all over by a bad offensive team, or will the first team defense rise up and dominate like it probably should? The answer could go a long way in telling us just how good this Panthers’ defense will be this season.