IT MIGHT be time for the Blues to go back to basics.
In the aftermath of Richmond's drought-breaking 2017 premiership victory, it became clear that a simple motto had been used to help turn the club's fortunes around: embrace your weaknesses, play to your strengths.
Speaking to AFL.com.au earlier this season, Melbourne's gun wingman Ed Langdon spoke candidly about coach Simon Goodwin using a similar philosophy to inspire his side's unbeaten start to the campaign.
"We spoke about wanting to put everyone's strengths on show as much as we can this year and I think that's what we're doing … (Goodwin) is just letting us play and not dampening our talent," Langdon said.
Both of those examples should be relevant to the Blues because both have, and are, leading to success.
The Tigers stopped trying to pigeonhole key forwards into a lineup that soon flourished with a smaller, pressure-focused attack and, in turn, gave Dustin Martin the freedom to roam where he wanted. The result has been three flags in four seasons.
The Demons allowed Langdon to bring an offensive mindset to the wing, allowed Jayden Hunt to bring speed and dare to half-back, allowed Kysaiah Pickett to play on instinct in the forward line. The reward has been the club's first 5-0 start since 1994.
Conversely, Carlton has reshaped a squad laden with top-end draft picks and finds itself in the midst of yet another struggle at 2-3. With games against Brisbane, the Western Bulldogs and the unbeaten Melbourne in the next month, more problems could quickly appear on the horizon.
Something is amiss. The club had more inside-50s against Port Adelaide last weekend, more clearances and more-or-less broke even for contested ball. Yet it found itself 43 points down at three-quarter time and, ultimately, finished the match badly beaten.
So, how does it get the most out of a group that flirts with the idea of being a genuine contender but so often falls short against the competition's best sides? One option could be following in Richmond and Melbourne's footsteps and simplifying things.
Champion Data's time-in-position stats show a number of Carlton's blue-chip recruits from its five-year rebuild are no longer playing in the roles where they flourished as junior prospects.
Sam Petrevski-Seton was recruited to the club as a ball-hunting, strong-tackling contested midfielder with the sixth selection in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft. But he's played 98.3 percent game time in the backline this season.
David Cuningham was also a first-round pick when he arrived in 2015, drafted as a quick midfielder who looked most threatening using his breakaway speed at stoppages. He's played 84.3 percent forward over the last three seasons.
Will Setterfield and Matt Kennedy weren't drafted by Carlton, but were both recruited from Greater Western Sydney. Setterfield was a tough, mobile and skilful modern midfielder, Kennedy a tall, contested onballer who thrived at stoppages.
But the former has been used on a wing for 68.5 percent of this season and the latter has been used forward for 71 percent of the last three years. Both have been dropped from the senior team over the last month.
It's a similar story for Paddy Dow, who was drafted with the third pick in 2017 as a tough, explosive contested midfielder but has played 54.7 percent game time forward this year. He has found himself in an attack that also features natural midfielders like Michael Gibbons, Marc Murphy and Zac Fisher.
Liam Stocker, another first-round pick, will make his way back into the Carlton team for the first time since 2019 on Saturday. But he will do so having won 38 disposals playing across half-back in the VFL last week. That's despite being drafted as the Morrish Medal winner for his prolific contested work in the midfield as a junior.
Then there's Mitch McGovern. Debate still rages as to his best position and whether it's forward of the ball, or behind it. The Blues were unable to get a clearer picture last Saturday night when he returned to the team by playing 77.6 percent of game time forward and 22.4 percent in the backline.
Earlier this week, Carlton coach David Teague praised the side's flexibility and hinted at the option of making more alterations against Brisbane on Saturday evening. He even suggested that the club's high-profile free agency addition, Zac Williams, could potentially return to a half-back role he filled capably at Greater Western Sydney.
Any such moves will follow McGovern's swapping of ends last weekend, and a shift that saw running defender Tom Williamson trying his hand in the forward line throughout the last quarter.
"We pulled a couple of levers last week," Teague said on Thursday.
"We've got quite a flexible team. Zac Williams can go back, Mitch McGovern can play at both ends which we tried the other night, Sam Petrevski-Seton has been at half-back but we know he can play through the midfield.
"We do have that flexibility which is great, but we'll do what we think is best to beat Brisbane this weekend and play at our best. Our priority right now is playing at our best, because we feel that's good enough."
Perhaps players finding consistency in their natural positions will also help them reach that level. Like the Tigers and the Demons before them, maybe only then will the Blues gain a greater understanding of just how talented their list can become.