What a beautiful day and an excellent excuse to tailgate. As opposed to years past, both sides of Carter-Finley were open and about 20-25k Pack fans showed up…both sides of the lower levels were close to being full. Additionally, about 300 former players were on hand for the annual reunion, including Bill Cowher, Jerricho Cotchery, Torry Holt and Mario Williams. Before I get into the on-field observations, I want to mention the efforts made by the current and former players to engage the fans. For example, I watched Mario Williams come down into the section I was sitting in and slowly make his way across all of the sections, walking parallel to the field…obviously something he did on purpose. He took the time to sign every autograph and take every picture he could. As an alum and a fan, I really appreciated that.
Now, onto the game itself…Frump it for my “expert” opinions.
- I wish my first observation could be something “less obvious” and more accurately demonstrate my knowledge of the nuances of the game…but I would be doing the star of the game a disservice. Mike Glennon looked FANTASTIC. There is not a throw he did not make today. From the Favre-like pitch to James Washington out the backfield, to the forty yard rope he dropped right into Owen Specner’s lap down the sideline he was very impressive. Glennon made throws on the run (one that comes to mind was a 50-yarder that fell incomplete but was right on target), the pocket and under pressure. When he gets his chance, he will be a star.
- The receiving corps had a nice day today. In past seasons I would always seem to hear that we were struggling to catch the ball consistently in practice. I have not heard that this season and I saw great effort today. I only remember one dropped ball (TJ Graham) and even that play was a broken one in which TJ was coming back to the QB out of the endzone. The seniors all played well (Spencer, Davis and Williams all had at least 4 catches) and Jay Smith had a great showing catching the ball for the Red team. George Bryan was his usual self at TE, Asa Watson apparently runs like a WR (86 yard reception down the hashes and nobody was close to him) and Anthony Talbert showed good hands on a diving grab. As I wrote on Day 4, this is the strength of our team.
- Offensive line is hardest to watch because you have to consciously divert your attention away from the ball. Mikal Overgaard got the start at RT and I thought he played well. He certainly passes the look test and Glennon was not really chased from the pocket. Both DE’s he faced are experienced players. If Overgaard can contribute at RT that will be a huge boost for the Pack, especially in the event RJ Mattes is not ready to go (although I did see RJ walking without a limp and without a brace which has to be a positive sign). I want to also mention Camden Wentz. Wentz well his ground well although we will have to get a better push up the middle for the running game. His continued development is the most important component to our offensive success this season. For the second team, I thought Sam Jones and Duran Christophe played very well. Both are huge and both move very well. Christophe executed an excellent tackle trap on a play that was called back for holding (not him) that really stood out to me. It is not a stretch to say this the deepest offensive line we have had in a loooong time.
- The running game was not great today, even though walk-on Travis Leggett put up some good numbers for the second team. There was not a lot of push and it seemed as if both Washington and Leggett were not able to consistently find the holes. Washington did demonstrate those great hands out of the backfield with 3 catches and had one run in particular where you can see how much potential he really has when given some space.
- Defensive line play today was solid, but not spectacular. The DE spot is in good hands as Lemon and Akinniyi started and played well. I was especially impressed with Akinniyi – coming into today I was not sure what to expect from him but he definitely can play. I really like how he always gets his hands up in the passing lanes…I think he had 2-3 deflections. DT play was good and did not give up a lot of push up the middle. Kuhn is in incredible physical shape. Slay’s quickness seemed to compliment him well, although I would really prefer to see Sweezy paired with Kuhn to REALLY keep people off the linebackers. Hopefully Sweezy makes it back so we can see that…those two will keep Irving clean. Cato-Bishop flashed his athleticism on a few plays, but I would like to see him at DE rather than DT.
- Speaking of Irving, it was really great to see him back out there. He looked like the old Nate to me…in the backfield disrupting and playing sideline to sideline. You can really tell how he elevates the play around him. Manning and Cole were solid and did not seem to give up a lot in their defensive zones (against the pass). Manning’s speed really jumps out at you – on Owen Spencer’s long TD I thought Manning was going to catch him. I hope Manning takes that next step in fall camp. Maddox and Lucas were solid for the second team but suffered from a lack of good DT play in front of them. Mageo is just not a space eater. In my opinion, that is more to blame for Leggett’s yardage than the LB play.
- The numbers do not show a great day for the DB’s (693 total yards through the air) , but hear me out before jumping off the ledge. Firstly, the Pack WR corps are probably the best in the ACC. Coupled with Glennon’s precision, there aren’t many defensive backfields that would have done much better. I saw the first team DB’s in position most of the day…they were burned by perfect throws and great WR’s making plays…not by deception, and there is an important distinction there. The second team I cannot be as kind to. They were burned and out of position on several occasions. I will mention that I thought Dean Haynes played well (he was at CB) as did Jordan Monk. Both will contribute this season. He will have to find some safeties to play behind Bishop and Wolff because they were not here today.
- The Pack offense will score a lot of points this season but needs to get more push for the running game
- The Pack D will not be as bad as last year, but they will need to get more pressure on the QB from the DE’s
- We played a great game fundamentally…few penalties, few missed tackles and solid blocking and protection
- While our wins and losses have not reflected it to this point, we play much better football under TOB…this may not be the “break out” season, but you have to like our youth and their experience moving forward
- 30+ players were held out of the game for injury purposes…I was disappointed we did not get to see Morgan Alexander…CAN WE PLEASE GET HEALTHY ALREADY?
- I really liked this season’s recruiting class’s highlight films being shown on the jumbo tron
- Really good to see Dana Bible on the sidelines
- You could hear Tenuta yelling at his guys in the stands…LB play is so crucial this season
Thanks for reading our breakdowns…stay tuned for more…
Day 7 – Defensive Backs
Day 6 – Linebackers
Day 5 – Defensive Line
Day 4 – Receivers
Day 3 – Offensive Line
Day 2 – Backfield (RB and QB)
Day 1 – Overview