!It is midway through preseason and the Panthers are 0-2, with just three field goals on offense but with a total of just 337 yards allowed on defense.
What does it mean?
That's hard to tell because the preseason can be like reading a book in a foreign language that you took in high school. You know what it's about, but translating it word-by-word is entirely different.
Here's a stab at the Panthers so far.
Carolina has recorded 11 sacks in two games and given up 11. Are the Panthers a reincarnation of the Fearsome Foursome on defense? Are they a mutation of the offensive line that allowed 66 sacks in 2000?
Probably neither. The offensive line depends on gameplans and suffers disproportionately without them. Thus, Carolina has benefitted on defense and suffered on offense.
The good news on offense is that most of those sacks have come in the second half, and that the opponents have been the Ravens and Jets, teams that fared pretty well on defense a year ago with their disruptive styles. Add gameplanning and Jeff Otah to the mix, and the Panthers should again have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
Last year, Carolina recorded 11 sacks over the entirety of the preseason, and matching that total in two games is encouraging regardless of the circumstances. Preseason play is not always an indicator of future performance, but Charles Johnson, Everette Brown, along with a number of others on the defensive line are playing like they belong.
The name recognition is low, but the performance has been high.
Equally encouraging has been the play against the run. The Panthers have faced the No. 1 (Jets) and No. 5 (Baltimore) rushing teams from a year ago and limited both to less than three yards per carry. It doesn't get any easier this week with No. 2 (Tennessee) coming to town.
The passing game has been sporadic, the special teams erratic, and the defense emphatic. Are those trends or aberrations? Time will tell.
What we do know is Matt Moore's limited track record reads well; there is an influx of new players with past success on special teams; and the defense has looked very quick so far.
Like a number of teams, the Panthers have been without premier players. Otah, Steve Smith, and Jonathan Stewart would make any offense better. With or without them, there has to be more production from the offense.
A year ago, Carolina scored in double figures every preseason game -- then scored 10 points or less in two of its first three regular season games.
The moral of the story? Preseason can be an interesting read, but sometimes it's still a mystery.