Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 May 2017

The Panthers Have the Weapons to Conquer the NFL with Option Football

You could use a lot of harsh words to describe the Carolina offense in recent years, but "predictable" might be the most accurate. FO alum Mike Tanier looks at the new weapons the Panthers have added in Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, then uses video clips and play diagrams to show how they can be used to make life much easier -- and safer -- for Cam Newton.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 18 May 2017

4 comments, Last at 19 May 2017, 5:17pm by dank067

Comments

1
by Guido Merkens :: Thu, 05/18/2017 - 5:42pm

I totally agree that the Panthers now have the personnel to be incredibly creative on offense, and I'm also worried that they won't be as creative as they should be.

That said, I don't understand the difference between Mike's first play diagram, showing an unsuccessful option against the Chiefs, and his second diagram, showing a hypothetical triple option with McCaffrey and Samuel. Isn't this exactly the same play, except Samuel motions into the backfield instead of starting there like Brown did?

I'm more excited for the possibility of passing plays with McCaffrey and Samuel. Having nominal RBs who can destroy LBs and safeties on pass routes is a huge advantage, something Belichick showed in the playoffs and the Lions showed with Theo Riddick all season. Having two such guys is an even bigger deal, because few defenses have two cover LBs with sufficient short-range quickness.

2
by Vincent Verhei :: Thu, 05/18/2017 - 8:58pm

That said, I don't understand the difference between Mike's first play diagram, showing an unsuccessful option against the Chiefs, and his second diagram, showing a hypothetical triple option with McCaffrey and Samuel. Isn't this exactly the same play, except Samuel motions into the backfield instead of starting there like Brown did?

Biggest difference is in matchups. Brown is a wide receiver, so putting him in the backfield effectively tipped the Panthers' hand, and brought another cornerback up to the line of scrimmage to play the run. As Mike wrote: "Problem was that Brown's presence in the backfield alerted the Chiefs to shenanigans. They loaded the box. Their backside defenders responded to the play like they just emerged from an option seminar with Nick Saban: The edge defender crashed on Stewart, a linebacker replaced him to contain Newton and a safety slid into the alley to neutralize the Brown threat. Newton took a hit and gained zero yards."

Samuel is listed as a wide receiver, but he's a bona fide running back -- he had more runs than receptions at Ohio State last year. Put him in the backfield, and defenses will likely treat him like any other runner, not an obvious gadget weapon.

3
by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 05/19/2017 - 12:01pm

Piece was great, as are most Tanier joints.

Quick aside though on the following: "You could use a lot of harsh words to describe the Carolina offense in recent years, but "predictable" might be the most accurate."

I wouldn't necessarily call the Panthers predictable, especially not in their 2015 season, when I found their offense fairly fascinating. They had so many varieties of runs, quick pass plays, utilizing guys like Tolbert so well.

They were actually right there for me with Arizona as the most fun offenses to watch that season.

4
by dank067 :: Fri, 05/19/2017 - 5:17pm

I thought Carolina was fun to watch in 2015 too, especially in the run game. Diverse and unpredictable and frequently gave Newton legitimate running options and assignments—he ended up carrying the ball 132 times. And he doesn't scramble that much. Different roles for multiple RBs like you mention with Tolbert.

Didn't end up watching them as much last year given their struggles but I know their offensive line declined, Cam was banged up and his rushing attempts declined by almost one-third. If they weren't as willing or able to give Cam the green light I can see how the offense would lose a bit of its unpredictability. Maybe it was even just a function of the fact that they were behind more.