Carolina Panthers

Running game shows promise

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The offseason mandate to fix the Carolina Panthers' run game showed some promising results, with the first offense moving efficiently on the ground in their first preseason game at Giants Stadium.

DeShaun Foster ripped off 62 yards on five carries against New York on Saturday, and looked like the same runner who destroyed the Giants here in the 2005 playoffs. Foster had 27 carries for 151 yards that day, and might have matched it if he got more than a quarter of work.

His last run was the most dramatic, a 31-yard gallop before the starters left the field at the end of the first quarter.

The way the Panthers hammered at the Giants on their first drive represented what the Panthers were looking for this year. Foster and Nick Goings combined to run six times for 55 yards on the Panthers' 81-yard touchdown drive.

More than anything, reviving the run game was the reason the Panthers replaced Dan Henning with Jeff Davidson this offseason, and the early results were good.

One of the main differences of Davidson's system is an increased reliance on zone blocking, which caters to the Panthers' athletic linemen and stable of runners who are more quick than powerful.

They showed that off early, with Foster popping runs of 7, 9 and 15 yards on plays that began in directions other than which they finished. Goings showed a good burst on a 21-yard run, which set up Jake Delhomme's 5-yard scoring pass to Steve Smith.

• STARTING OUT: With rookie linebacker Jon Beason still learning, the Panthers started James Anderson on the weakside. Coach John Fox said last week he was doing so largely so Beason would get more than the 12 plays the starters were expected to get.

The other up-in-the-air spot was wide receiver, and Drew Carter got the nod there over Keary Colbert, though they've split practice reps pretty evenly during the first two weeks of camp.

• SITTING OUT: The strange sight of the evening was linebacker Dan Morgan running around in full uniform during pre-game warm-ups, even though he didn't play.

The Panthers are holding Morgan out of nearly all the contact work in training camp, and it would be a surprise to see him at all before the regular-season opener, Sept. 9 at St. Louis.

Defensive end Mike Rucker was also held out, though he did make the trip. Backup running back DeAngelo Williams didn't play after complaining of ankle stiffness in pregame warmups.

Adam Seward started in Morgan's spot and Stanley McClover filled in for Rucker.

The Panthers left six players home so they could get treatment for injuries: Linebacker Na'il Diggs, safety Nate Salley, wide receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Justin McCullum, running back Alex Haynes and tight end Chad Upshaw.

• MELTON IN 2008?: Linebacker Terrence Melton -- who tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee last Saturday at Fan Fest -- said last week he hopes to be back with the Panthers next season, and there have been informal talks toward that end already.

Obviously no promises have been made, but there's a general sense on both sides that Melton's a guy they'd like to see again. Melton's agent confirmed that there had been "conversations," and that's part of the reason the 30-year-old linebacker has chosen to stay in Charlotte to rehab his knee.

"I think the important thing was I showed them a little something," Melton said last week.

While not a household name, Melton quickly became a favorite of the coaching staff, which saw him as a faster Chris Draft-type who could back up at either of the outside spots and be a valuable special teamer.

The Panthers signed him to a one-year, $510,000 deal with no bonus after New Orleans didn't make him a restricted free agent tender. He has just three years' experience because he spent his first four seasons as a pro playing in Canada and the Arena League.

• STILL ON THE RADAR: Since the day they released him because he couldn't pass his physical, the Panthers said they'd monitor the situation of former defensive tackle Jordan Carstens.

His agent said recently that a comeback is eminently possible, perhaps even this year.

Carstens was lost for the season last year when a blood clot moved to his lung, the result of medication he was taking for a pre-existing kidney condition. He lost considerable weight during his down time, and simply wasn't ready for camp.

"The big thing for Jordan is that the numbers (his blood counts) just aren't quite where they need to be to get him off the blood-thinners," agent Rick Smith said. "But there's a window there for him, that they think he could get to the point. The big thing was, they just didn't want him hanging around there worrying, so he's back on the farm in Iowa, resting and concentrating on getting himself well."

The Panthers have always said they'd consider bringing him back, and they've always done right by him, as well. Last year when he was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list, they could have gotten by without paying him, per league rules. But they gave him the balance of his salary anyway, a good-faith gesture they tied to his performance. After making the team as an undrafted rookie in 2004, he started 15 games in 2005.

• EXTRA POINTS: Morgan did come out with the captains to take the pre-game coin toss, along with defensive end Julius Peppers, Delhomme, right tackle Jordan Gross and kicker John Kasay. Morgan called tails and the Panthers lost.

Be sure to visit Herald reporter Darin Gantt's Panthers blog for updates on your favorite team at community.heraldonline.com

  Comments