It seems like a lot of people are worked up about that preseason game. The final score looked bad, and the game was rough at times, but anybody who saw that game as a "revelation" has not been or isn't paying attention. I think we can sit up in the sober light of dawn (even though it's not dawn yet) and say a couple things:
We do have a Franchise Quarterback.
We have a quarterback that plays through injuries, rust, and pressure in a PRESEASON GAME. A lot of other guys would have shut it down after that shot to the ribs. Cam Newton is a man and a leader who looks like he might be developing further as a passer this offseason.
We do not have a Perfect Quarterback.
Tom Brady accurately, consistently, and with variation drove his team down field. He is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, if not the greatest of all time. Cam doesn't look that good because, maybe, five guys have been that good. Ever. Tom Brady is also approaching forty and hasn't won a superbowl since before Terrell Owens was a laughing stock. Cam was not perfect tonight, but he was better than a vast majority of quarterbacks would have been. Valid criticism is important, but appreciating what you have and what your opponent is too.
We have a great young receiver in Kelvin Benjamin.
Benjamin came into the league with much more polish and ability than many draft experts thought. It already looks like we got a steal with our pick and many teams will regret passing on him. Credit to Cam and Ricky Proehl for working with him so much, but also credit Benjamin for working so hard to be ready now. The future at wideout looks bright for the first time in a while.
We do not have great depth at receiver.
Cotchery and Avant are nothing special, and none of the young guys outside of Benjamin will give us a ton this year. Philly Brown may be a average punt returner, which is way more than I expected from any of these guys. We are lucky so many people were wrong about Benjamin because we would struggle to get separation anywhere if not for him and Olsen. One of Cotchery or Avant will probably develop into a inconsistent but passable option like Lafell was last year. Frustrating at times, but enough for us to get by on.
We do have a young left tackle that struggles with speed rushers.
Byron Bell has been a steal. To get that kind of play from an UDFA is amazing, but we know what he is. We have known for years. For some people to pretend he was suddenly going to turn a corner this season and become an entirely different player this season was silly.
We do not have the death of the 2014 season at left tackle.
In 2005, we moved an overmatched Travelle Wharton to left tackle. He was inconsistent, and at times downright terrible (six sacks given up to the Bears at Soldier Field, a game I skipped out on class and financial obligations to go see). He was also solid enough, consistently enough to give us a chance to win. From what I have seen, Byron Bell does not look much better or worse than Travelle did that season. So, hopefully, he is enough.
We do have a chance to have back to back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history.
There is enough talent on this team to make the playoffs. Newton, Davis, Kuechly, Benjamin, Olsen, Star, Johnson, Hardy, etc form an amazing, young nucleus that learned how to win last year. We will be dangerous this year, and better in years to come.
We do not have a guarantee to have back to back winning seasons.
It will not be a cake walk. We have enough holes on this team to regress to 8-8 or 7-9. But football is a weird, rarely predictable, game. So I would therefore encourage you to go to the games, cheer hard, and hope we get a few lucky breaks along the way.