Let's be honest. Optimism abounds in the offseason and preseason. Holes are identified and filled by draft picks and big free agent pickups, and this combined with the feeling that every team starts the regular season at zero wins and zero losses, as well as a league as unpredictable as the NFL can be... well, name a team that isn't thinking that the Super Bowl is within reach this season.
Well, okay, maybe the Vikings. But you certainly can't say it's not on the Panthers' minds. But I digress.
In the optimistic world of the preseason, let's take a look at some of the optimist-tinted claims we'll probably hear this season, and some things that an optimist might not mind seeing or hearing.
1) J'Marcus Webb/Chris Williams won the left tackle position, so hey, they aren't the worst lineman on the team.
2) Dane Sanzenbacher led the receivers in touchdown receptions, and he is a longshot to make the team - the receiving corps has so much depth!
3) Gabe Carimi is back and healthy - we don't have to see Lance Louis play tackle again! (Wait, heard that one...)
4) Jay Cutler just completed a long touchdown to Brandon Marshall - record-setting duo!
5) Israel Idonije is the starting left end. He beat out the team's first round pick, so he must be that much better!
6) Corey Wootton's had a hard time seeing the field - he must be saving it up for his next defensive snap.
7) Michael Bush is the team's short yardage back - this time, it's sure to work! At least he's better than Chester Taylor.
8) Robbie Gould's launching 70-yard field goals and splitting the uprights; time for him to try those in a game.
9) Matt Forte's first camp play is a 90-yard rushing touchdown. Clearly his new contract isn't enough. #PayDaMan.
10) Mike Tice talks about an explosive offense, deep pass plays, reduced seven-step drops and a moving pocket. Fans swoon. (Heard that one too...)
11) Johnny Knox is doing some light rehab. He'll be ready for the first preseason game after all! (Wait, no, too unrealistic...)
12) Major Wright made a tackle without leaving his feet or whiffing - early running for Defensive Player of the Year! (Much better.)
13) Craig Steltz still hasn't cut his hair, and with the power of Thor, will at least contend for a starting safety spot.
14) Alshon Jeffery catches Cutler's first pass - if Cutler and Marshall have so much chemistry, man, imagine what this could develop into?!
15) Brian Urlacher arrived at camp and announced his intention to stop aging until he wins a Super Bowl.
16) Lance Briggs arrived at camp and didn't announce his desire for new paper.
17) Julius Peppers arrived at camp and announced he'd hunt down quarterbacks with or without line help.
18) James Brown showed up, took Webb and Williams aside, said some things, and is now taking first-team snaps at left tackle.
Okay, some of those are more than a little unrealistic, but you get the point. We'll hear a lot of things about how the players are doing, how so-and-so is a rising star in camp, how all this guy or that guy does is make plays... Basically, it'll sound like training camp is broadcast by Jon Gruden. The best measure of how a team is coming together or playing is when there's competition that isn't wearing the same color mesh shirts as they are. Some days the offensive players will have their awesome days, and sometimes the defense will take their turn, but when they struggle or miss their timing, it's not suddenly a push to send some random new guy in there cause "clearly this isn't working."
It's called "training camp" for a reason - there'll be hiccups along the way and there'll be a lot of backpatting. But just remember - everyone's 0-0 at this point, and the Super Bowl is always in reach... until your cornerstone player gets hurt in a freak camp accident.