The Carolina Panthers opened the 2013 preseason with a sloppy 24-17 win over the Chicago Bears. Josh Norman, a second-year cornerback out of Coastal Carolina, lost his starting spot late last season was outstanding for the Panthers’ defense. His two interceptions – one setting up a score and the other returned for a touchdown – was the result of his hard work during training camp in Spartanburg.
“I don’t know if I would say redemption. I just feel like it’s hard work paying off,” Norman said. All the hard work I put into the offseason, all the work I’ve been doing and practicing and understanding the concepts of everything. And just my study habits have gotten a whole lot better.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera was pleased with the play of Norman Friday night. “He’s a ball-hawk,” Rivera said. “He’s got the ability to make plays. We saw that last year and I really do believe he’s having a solid camp.”
Overall, it was a sloppy game – typical of an early-August exhibition. The teams combined for seven turnovers, including four by Carolina.
The first was a pick-six thrown by quarterback Cam Newton in the first quarter. Up until that point, things were going well for the home team. Newton was trying to hit tight end Greg Olsen across the middle. Newton saw Olsen was covered by safety Major Wright, but he never saw Jonathan Bostic, a second-round pick from Miami. Bostic intercepted the pass and ran along the sideline for a 51-yard score.
“I saw man-to-man. … (Wright) had help inside. I completely lost (Bostic),” Newton said. “Just got to get the cobwebs out. It’s something different than our defense and we’ve got to be more prepared.”
Coach Rivera said Newton “got a little greedy,” on the interception, but played well otherwise. Newton did not want his short night to end on a down note, but the coach was sticking to his script of playing his starter just 10-12 plays.
“It’s tough. I begged and pleaded so I could get one more series. I’m going home with an interception my last throw. It’s disgusting. But it’s something you’ve got to live with,” Newton said. “You’ve got to live and learn. And I think it’s keeping me anxious for this upcoming preseason game at Philadelphia.”
Newton’s three series resulted in a punt, a touchdown and the interception. He was 3-for-6 passing for 16 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell.
All three Panthers quarterbacks lost turnovers. Backup Derek Anderson threw a second-quarter interception, while third-teamer Jimmy Clausen fumbled a handoff in the second half on his first drive.
The Panthers will practice Sunday evening, Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning at Wofford College before breaking camp to return to Charlotte. Their next game will be Thursday night in Philadelphia. The Eagles lost last night to the Patriots in the first game of Coach Chip Kelly’s NFL career. At least the Panthers’ defense will have some idea of what this newly revamped Eagles offense is like from watching game film.
• Going into camp, many people questioned whether Armanti Edwards was going to make this team. He will – as a backup receiver. Coach Rivera has said repeatedly the real test will be whether Edwards can make catches in traffic, and he had a couple of good ones Friday.
• Both of Carolina’s rookie defensive tackles looked good, with No.1 draft choice Star Lotulelei holding the point of attack.
• Carolina is trying to use rookie running back Kenjon Barner the way the team once tried to use Mike Goodson. Barner is dynamic and shifty and scored a five-yard rushing touchdown Friday. But Barner currently has a little bit of the same problem Goodson used to have – fumble-itis. Barner called his first-half lost fumble “unacceptable.” The second one he was involved with was actually credited to Jimmy Clausen, but Rivera said afterward that Barner had reached for the ball instead of letting Clausen give it to him. Barner can ill-afford fumbles, as there are several veterans ahead of him on the depth-chart. The surprise (late) sixth-round pick showed resilience scoring one touchdown and making a nice shoe-top catch of a poorly-thrown ball, turning around and running for a first down.