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Mason's Minutes: 'D' dominant at Fan Fest

Posted Aug 8, 2009

Swarm
The first-team defense was dominant, only allowing one first down in its period of play. (PHOTO: MATTHEW BRINKLEY)


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CHARLOTTE -- There were no storms in the skies above Bank of America Stadium at Fan Fest on Saturday, so the thunder had to come from Carolina's defense.

The Panthers' first-team defense stole the show during the game-condition scrimmage period of the 90-minute practice, allowing just one first down and 11 yards in its three-series, 11-play stint on the field against the No. 2 offense.

"Most camps this time of year the defense is usually a little bit ahead," head coach John Fox said.

The 15,549 in attendance saw tangible evidence of what coordinator Ron Meeks has asked of his defense, even with first-team linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis out with hamstring and knee injuries, respectively. Defenders swarmed to the ball, only allowing one gain of more than six yards for the 11 plays it was on the field.

OVERALL, the No. 1, 2 and 3 defensive units combined to permit just one scoring drive on seven full series -- a seven-play, 41-yard march when the third units dueled near the end of practice. Kicker John Kasay sent a 42-yard field goal through the uprights for the only points of the period.

The first-team offense went through three possessions -- two with Jake Delhomme at quarterback and one with Josh McCown under center. The first two series saw the offense go three-and-out before a third-series drive saw the offense advance 22 yards to the defense's 43-yard-line before a timely Joe Fields hit prevented a McCown-to-Dwayne Jarrett connecion across the middle.

Fields

The football gets away from Dwayne Jarrett. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)


"It didn't go that smoothly," left tackle Jordan Gross said. "It's more about how guys did indivdually. You can't get too excited or too frustrated with any type of scrimmage.

"Our defense is a good defense. Twelve plays is just a little sample of what we're going to be all about. But we return all our starters, so I expect us to be better than we were last year."

The No. 1 offense was sprinkled with players from throughout the depth chart. It went without DeAngelo Williams -- who sat out with a toe injury -- and kept Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammad and Jonathan Stewart on the sideline for the period.

"There were some guys standing over there by me," Fox said. "Our weapons weren't out there on offense."

With Williams and Stewart watching, rookie Mike Goodson carried the load, picking up 14 yards on three carries, including a seven-yard, second-and-7 pickup that moved the offense onto the defense's side of the field for the first time in the period.

Goodson

With first-team work on offense and kickoff-return responsibilities, Mike Goodson was a busy fellow Saturday morning. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)


But with each unit limited to a dozen snaps, Goodson, McCown and the No. 1 offensive line couldn't complete the possession -- which was all right, since those players had gleaned what they needed from the day.

"I thought we accomplished what we wanted to do: give some guys live hitting, some live tackling and get them used to football shape," Fox said. "Luckily we got out with no injuries."

And that was the most important aspect of the day -- to emerge unscathed and head back to Spartanburg for the next phase of preparation.

"Next week is going to be critical for us," Gross said. "I think we've got a lot of improvement to do before we put on our pads for real up in New York against the Giants (on Aug. 17)."

SPLIT SECONDS:

... Five Panthers did not practice: Beason, Williams, Thomas Davis, offensive lineman C.J. Davis (ankle) and safety Nate Salley (knee soreness) ...

... Dan Connor continued working with the first team at middle linebacker and had some solid stops, including one where the force of his hit sent Jamall Lee's helmet flying ...

... The most acrobatic catch of the day belonged to Kenneth Moore, who hung on to a pass from Delhomme during seven-on-seven work in spite of being hit by cornerback C.J. Wilson. Moore, however, was out of bounds, nullifying the acrobatic catch.

Catch

A nice grab for Kenneth Moore, but still out of bounds. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)


... The Panthers had a kickoff return period midway through practice, with Goodson, Larry Beavers and Ryne Robinson taking their turns back to receive ...

Beavers

Larry Beavers waits for the blocking to set up on a kickoff return. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)


... Beavers had the longest gain of the team scrimmage period, grabbing a 16-yard pass from Hunter Cantwell on the last play of the practice.

MORE SNAPSHOTS:

Williams
Consigned to the sideline, Williams chats up the officials on hand to observe the practice.

Rosario
Dante Rosario's turn upfield ends when D.J. Clark smashes into him.

Harris
Chris Harris morphs into a brick wall, stopping Decori Birmingham.

Birmingham
But Birmingham later found room to run, following Jeff King's block for a 14-yard gain that helped set up Kasay's field goal.

Delhomme
In the end, the day was about fans meeting players and taking home a memory -- and an autograph.
Peppers

UP NEXT:

The first off-day from on-field work. The Panthers won't convene for practice again until Monday morning at 9:10 a.m. EDT for the first of two sessions that day. The Panthers will hit the field for seven consecutive days at Wofford College before heading to northern New Jersey for the preseason lid-lifter with the New York Giants on Aug. 17.