Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 8/16/12
Cam Newton said he went into the Carolina Panthers preseason opener last Saturday night a little lethargic. Perhaps the grind of training camp was getting to Newton and the Panthers, and they were unable to match the intensity the Houston Texans brought to Bank of America Stadium. For Houston, just getting out on the road and seriously breaking the monotony of camp may have been a necessary tonic the Panthers werent afforded. The result was a 26-13 Carolina defeat, and a second half that left a lot to be desired. But the Panthers have a chance to get the nose pointed in the right direction Friday night versus the visiting Miami Dolphins and should have more bounce in their collective steps this time around. First, training camp broke Tuesday, which is always a relief, especially after nearly three weeks of bunking together and seeing very little of anything or anyone else. Plus, being at home without having to bus to Charlotte from Spartanburg S.C., will give the players more of a feel of this being a real game. That ought to excite some of them. For head coach Ron Rivera, it means he expects much better performances across the board. Consistency. We cant have the ups and downs, weve got to make plays, Rivera said. If there is one thing I had to say defensively, I want to see us separate from blockers a little bit quicker and I want to see better tackles. Offensively, I want to see us make plays when we need to make them, especially in critical situations. Third down weve got to be better on, and most certainly on defense weve got to get off the field on third down. Here are some things the coaching staff wants and needs to see more of or a improvements in: --Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly played pretty well last weekend, forcing a fumble to set up a field goal. He was in on some impressive tackles and gave the veterans on the team to continue seeing him not as a rookie. --Wide receiver Louis Murphy had two receptions for 42 yards, offering a glimpse of why the Panthers went out and got him. Rivera said he recalled that as the defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers having to game-plan for Murphy, who spent the last four seasons with the Oakland Raiders. So he brought him to Charlotte to beef up the position. Murphy may be gaining the inside track to take the third receiver spot on the team. --The Panthers must show more spirit at the outset of their game with the Dolphins on Friday night. Mistakes are one thing, especially in the first preseason game of the year, but lacking focus is inexcusable. He wasnt happy, you could see why, Newton said. The effort out there, it just wasnt good enough. --Special teams were at it again, and this may have been the most disappointing development of the night. After Carolina tied the score at 3-3, Texans return man Trindon Holliday raced 90 yards on the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. The Panthers had issues with kick coverage last season and allowed two late punt returns for touchdowns, possibly costing them victories in both contests. Needless to say, the staff must see improvement in this area. It all starts with the kickoff being the foremost, Rivera said, later adding his disappointment in how the team handled such an important aspect of the game. The nice thing about it is that it (was) a preseason game, he said. We will learn from this and we will get better. Fridays game wont **** toward the standings, but its important the staff sees more positive from the starters on down to the guys who may get cut next week. Carolina used 73 players last season, so many who comprise the current roster may still get an opportunity to get onto the field this season because of natural attrition, so its about more than getting 53 guys ready for the season. --With that in mind, training camp ended this week, and Rivera feels pretty good about what the team accomplished. We accomplished some of the things we wanted to, he said. We are starting to practice more consistently, were taking away those highs and lows during practice, and were starting to answer some of those position questions.
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