The Carolina Panthers have had a season filled with underachievement and disappointment.
They are who we thought they were. Or are they?
The Panthers entered the 2012 season with high expectations (at worst modest ones), but seem to be a shell of the team many envisioned prior to the season's start.
In all fairness, the defense hasn't been too much of a let down as concerns abounded about how much they would improve from last year. They have given up a lot of points and yards, allowing the opposition to stay in the game, if not dominate it. Regardless, they are still a disappointment and seem to have a Jekyll and Hyde persona about them on game day.
The defense has only put consistent pressure on the quarterback in two games this season. Both of those games were against division rivals. The line found it difficult getting any pressure in the other two games, especially in the New York game where the pocket remained virtually intact. The defensive line is playing like we knew it could but has looked ineffective at times.
The defense has been awful.
If that is how many saw them headed into the season then they are indeed who we thought they were. Even a modest improvement would assuredly lead to more victories, right?
That's where the offense comes into play.
Carolina's highly potent and dangerous offense led by Cam Newton was supposed to be one of the best offenses in the league and keep the Panthers competitive in every game this season. Four games, one win.
If there was ever a time to wonder about what this offense really is and what they are really all about, now is a good a time as any. The numbers speak for themselves after one month of football. The Panthers are ranked 14th in passing yards, averaging about 252 yards per game.
Their rushing offense is ranked 11th at 122 yards per game average. If Carolina were coming off a season similar to 2010, those numbers would be respectable, encouraging even.
However, everyone from the organization to the fanbase knows this team can do so much better.
Are they who we thought they were?
The Panthers were supposed to be balanced on offense with the ability to move the ball effectively on the ground and in the air. That hasn't been the case as a lackluster showing against Tampa Bay netted only 10 points, a loss to a team many felt Carolina should have easily defeated.
The Panthers were able to rebound the following week at home with a huge win over the New Orleans Saints after putting up 35 points, but then they turned around and disappointed everyone by not showing up on Thursday night against the New York Giants.
There is an unusual trend to consider here.
Carolina has put up points through the first four weeks, but lots of them come when they have a poor showing the previous week. The exact opposite seems to happen when they score at least four touchdowns. It's only four games but the first month can be very telling about a team and it's direction.
Maybe this is who they are.
There can be many reasons to argue why the Panthers are 1-3. Some point to the offense, others to the defense and some blame the coaching staff. There is plenty of blame to go around for sure but the season is still young. While rebounding from an abysmal start and locking up a playoff spot may be a tall order, this young Carolina team has the tools to create a winning formula.
It might help if Newton wasn't leading three of the major offensive team categories (passing yards, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns). With the personnel they have on offense, they should be a little more balanced than that. That could explain Newton's mindset about being the go-to guy throughout each game.
Carolina has a long way to go and a lot of growing up to do. They will improve and get better with age like a fine wine. If they maintain a similar style of play from last season, there is a chance they can salvage the season, even if that means finishing 7-9 or 8-8.
Are they who we thought they were?
Yes and no. The current identity of the Carolina Panthers is one of inconsistency and underachievement. Those are two words you will never hear used to describe a successful team.