This was supposed to be Brandon LaFell's breakout season with the Carolina Panthers.
Through the first two games of the 2012 season it looked like LaFell was ready to break out, finally giving Carolina a legitimate WR2 to complement Steve Smith.
But over the last two games he has simply looked broken.
With one-fourth of the NFL season already in the books, I find myself as a Panthers fan asking: Will the real Brandon LaFell please stand up?
Two Years and Two Games of Progress
The Panthers selected Brandon LaFell in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft.
He flashed potential in 2010 with his 38-468-1 line placing him fifth among rookies in receptions, a feat which is even more impressive considering his quarterbacks were Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen, Brian St. Pierre, and Tony Pike.
In 2011 LaFell found some decent chemistry with Cam Newton. Though his receptions dropped to 36 he increased his receiving yards to 613 and scored three touchdowns.
Entering 2012 the Panthers organization and fans like me were practically begging LaFell to develop into a solid WR2. He was getting quite a bit of fantasy football buzz as a 2012 sleeper. He was supposed to blossom in his second year with Cam Newton and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
Through Week 2 his number were promising: 9 receptions, 155 yards, one touchdown.
At that rate Brandon LaFell was on pace to put up a 16-game stat line of 72-1,240-8, exactly what the Panthers need from their WR2.
But then Week 3 and Week 4 happened.
And now I don't know what to think about Brandon LaFell.
Brandon LaFell Has "LaFallen" to Earth
The entire Carolina offense - and Cam Newton in particular - looked terrible in the Week 3 36-7 stink-a-thon loss to the New York Giants. Brandon LaFell was no exception - one receptions, 27 yards.
But there was no need to grow concerned about at that point. He was open a number of times against the Giants and Cam just missed him.
But in Week 4 the Panthers' offense regained its form, scoring four touchdowns in a 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Brandon LaFell's Week 4 contribution? Zero catches, zero yards, three million angry fantasy owners.
Panthers quarterbacks have completed 34 passes over their last two games, and only one of these balls was caught by Brandon LaFell.
He is now on pace in 2012 to put up similar 16-game stats as he produced last year: 40 receptions, 728 yards, four touchdowns.
Needing Better than Average
40-728-4 is a perfectly average season for a starting NFL wide receiver.
Not bad. Not good. Just average
But the Panthers need much more than average from Brandon LaFell. They need a consistent WR2 capable of taking pressure off Steve Smith. They need a WR2 who can stretch the field, make plays, and draw defensive coverage.
For the remainder of this season the Carolina Panthers need the real Brandon LaFell to please stand up.
And when he does, I hope he's better than average.
Andrew Sweat is a die-hard Panthers fan. For more from this author, visit Andrew's archive or check these out articles:
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- Brandon LaFell
- Cam Newton