The 2012 season is still young, but there are a few things about the Carolina Panthers we now know which may give us an idea of what kind of team they will be throughout the season.
The team entered the season to much fanfare and hype, even being predicted by a few analysts to reach the playoffs. However, after a poor showing Thursday night, such notions and assumptions may have been premature.
Carolina's performance against the defending champion New York Giants was at best uninspired. The team overall looked flat, the offense was never really in sync and the defense gave up too many big plays through the air and on the ground.
For a team to have such lofty aspirations going into training camp and the season, they picked the wrong night to fall on their collective faces.
So, what have learned this far into the season?
While it may be too early to write the Panthers off, they will have to turn their game around drastically if there is any hope of a postseason appearance in January.
Yes, there are the critics and pundits who have been quick to say, "I told you so" and even imitating a little bit of Dennis Green's famous, "They are who we thought they were" rant but for now, nothing is set in stone and there is still time for Carolina to recover.
We learned a lot Thursday. Some of which we saw on the field, some on the sidelines and some from the postgame interviews. Here are the top five.
Ryan Kalil is a great center. He has been to the Pro Bowl and is one of the veterans of the offensive line. If anyone is allowed to make a bold prediction, it is him. However, based on what we have seen from the Panthers' play in two of their first three games, Kalil may have bitten off more than he can chew.
When training camp opened, Kalil took out a huge ad in the Charlotte Observer predicting a Super Bowl championship for Carolina. For a team that hasn't sniffed the postseason since 2008, that is a very bold statement.
To his credit, coach Ron Rivera ordered shirts supporting Kalil and even the fans have shown their support. It just hasn't been enough to translate into productive drives for the Panthers, and they only have one win to show for their efforts.
Kalil's heart was in the right place and perhaps he felt he was doing his part to fire up his team and rally the fanbase, but so far his actions will go the route of fruitless predictions of the past and could end up looking foolish if the Panthers don't start locking down some wins.
When the 2011 season concluded and the start of this season was not that far off, Newton acknowledged he was not a good teammate, which saw the Panthers finish 6-10. In an interview last May, Newton said,
I was very immature. I'll be the first one to tell you, the pouting and the moping, I kind of overdid it. I know that.
After three weeks into the 2012 season, not much has changed.
Newton could be spotted on the bench after throwing an interception with his towel draped over his head looking as if his dog died. Perhaps its due to the fact the image of him sitting on a bench like that is burned into our heads, but he doesn't seem to be prepping for the next series while on the sidelines.
The best quarterbacks in the league usually are studying film and discussing the plays that worked and the ones that didn't work before they return to the field.
Another thing to consider is Newton seems to possess this "me first" mentality. It seems as though he forgets he is not the only one out there. The faster Newton embraces the team concept, the better the chances for success in Carolina.
Hopefully, the little "pep" talk Steve Smith gave Newton on the sideline at the end of Thursday night's game will stick with him.
Oh, and Cam...stop celebrating scores when your team is down three possessions.
There was a feeling of optimism surrounding the Panthers' defense prior to the start of their game Thursday. The Giants were limited by injuries to Ahmed Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks; plus starting tackle David Diehl was out for the game, too.
Carolina should have feasted on this broken offense.
However, that would not be the case as backup running back Andre Brown racked up 113 yards and two touchdowns while Ramses Barden had nine catches for 138 yards. Ouch!
It stands to reason that a defense who cannot defend against second-stringers will not fare too well against a healthy offense.
There were too many missed opportunities from the Carolina defenders in this one. Charles Godfrey missed two interceptions after picking off Drew Brees last week.
Both Chris Gamble and Josh Norman were beaten throughout the night. The defensive line could not generate any pressure, which was surprising after they made it a habit of getting into Brees' face multiple times in Week 2.
This unit needs help. They haven't been solid up front in a while, and they may need to either find an established veteran or consider finding that upgrade through the draft. The entire defense needs to be strengthened and this could be a work in progress for the next couple of seasons.
DeAngelo Williams carried the ball 11 times for 50 yards. That is 4.5 yards per carry. So why did the Panthers abandon the run? Sure, the rest of the running game was not as effective and Jonathan Stewart was out, but Williams was doing a lot when given the ball.
Essentially, the idea to pass the ball or run an option play became Carolina's undoing. A few times those plays were met with catastrophic results.
Would running the ball more consistently made a difference? Perhaps not, but it may have kept the final score more favorable and not as one-sided.
It is unknown if Rob Chudzinski is trying to be a little cute in his play calling or if its a failure to execute by the offense. It could be a combination of the two.
We get it: Carolina has a very complex offensive scheme. However, if it is simple but working, stick with it. The time to be creative is when it is least expected, not on every other play or every other series.
There really isn't much to say about the defense that wasn't already mentioned in the previous slide. The frustrating thing about the defense is Coach Rivera is a defensive-minded coach and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is supposed to be one of the best in the league.
It's simple; with their respective backgrounds, the defense should be playing at a higher level.
That sounds a bit demoralizing to say, but its true. The Panthers are 6-9 in prime-time games and winless on Thursday nights. They haven't been successful on national television in a while, and they have one more game under the lights before this season is over.
It is one thing to lose with everybody watching, but it is something else altogether to completely embarrass your team, organization and fans.
This was supposed to be the best chance for Carolina's coming-out party and to show the world they belonged with the league's elite. After last week's victory over New Orleans, there was no reason to blame them. The problem was the Giants showed up and the Panthers did not.
There is still time for redemption and their next prime-time game will be later in the year at Philadelphia on Monday Night Football. If they are to be taken seriously, it will help them to have a winning record, be in the hunt and notch a convincing win from the Eagles.
Failure to do so will label them irrelevant and hurt their chances at playing any more games at night in the near future.