It is often said that in the NFL, the preseason and the results mean very little, if not anything at all. Teams use the four game preseason to slim rosters, give opportunity, and develop rhythms to the starting offense, defense, and special teams to propel them to an early start in week one.
However, the Carolina Panthers the last two years have become probably the most conservative of all the NFL teams at how they approach the preseason.
Most teams use the third preseason game to get the most out of their starting units and playbook, and develop the continuity needed for a good solid start to the season. In 2008, the Carolina Panthers did just that.
The third preseason game for the Panthers in 2008 was a home game against the Washington Redskins. Carolina opened up the playbook and unleashed a 47-3 beat down to the Skins. The result of that game may have helped the Panthers to a hot start and propelled Carolina to a 12-4 regular season, and an NFC South division crown.
In the 2009 preseason, Carolina used the exact opposite strategy to their approach. Coach Fox became super conservative in his approach, and the Panthers finished 0-4 in the preseason...a result which possibly resulted to a disastrous opener against Philadelphia, a horrendous 0-3 start, and an overall 8-8 record for the 2009 season.
The play of Carolina on the offensive side this preseason was terrible. The word conservative is not aggressive enough to describe how bland this team was on how they played offense. They were careful in every way, and the results were miserable. The offense for Carolina was held without a touchdown in 4 preseason games.
Now the question remains will the lack of rhythm Carolina established on the offensive side carry over into a poor start to the 2010 regular season?
Carolina's opening day opponent the New York Giants had a sub-par preseason, finishing 2-2. At times both the offense and defense for the Giants struggled, however both units at times played well. The Giants prepared themselves enough that preseason play should not affect their week one start in my opinion.
If anything good came out of the preseason it was the play of the defense, a unit that most people say is currently in rebuild mode. There is a lot of talent and speed on this defense, combined with a lot of youth and inexperience. The play of the defense was consistent, and at times, spectacular.
Still, most Carolina Panther fans will blow off the preseason just as they will blow off this article and say the preseason means nothing. It is true that every team in the NFL is now 0-0.
However, I ask you to think of last year and the Philadelphia game and the beat down that occurred on that opening day. Carolina went into that game with basically the same unit that won 12 regular season games just a year earlier...yet didn't look like they belonged on the same field as the Eagles. They were slower than Philly at almost every position. The Panthers had no rhythm at all.
By halftime next Sunday, we may know whether or not the super-conservative approach to the 2010 preseason was a mistake in the making.