Word of Muth: Carolina Shuffle

Word of Muth: Carolina Shuffle

by Ben Muth

The Panthers dropped Sunday's game against the Falcons and fell to 1-3 on the season. People are officially starting to panic. The secondary is under fire, people are questioning reigning MVP Cam Newton, and of course the offensive line is getting its share of the blame. I'm not going to get into every potential problem for the Panthers, but we will take a look at what the offensive line did Sunday.

This line's performance in Atlanta was a mixed bag. At center, Ryan Kalil played really well. Mike Remmers, who was playing left tackle for an injured Michael Oher, played really badly (evidence to follow). The guards, Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner, were pretty good and OK, respectively. Right tackle Daryl Williams was probably below average. Overall I don't think it was a disaster, but it wasn't the kind of performance that Carolina got from this unit last year.

I think a big part of the problem was that the offensive line was reconfigured due to the Oher injury. Remmers was a disaster at left tackle, and Williams wasn't very good on the right side. That lead to constant pressure off both edges that Newton had to deal with. On top of generally poor tackle play, I think playing next to Williams really affected Turner. I thought they seemed off when working together all day, and I don't think it's coincidence that Turner looked better whenever he was working inside (with Kalil) as opposed to outside.

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This is a simple twist stunt where the Panthers really don't block either guy coming from the right side. Look at how much quicker Turner (70) recognizes the stunt than Williams (60), which is crazy because he has the penetrator. Typically it's way easier for the guy who is lined up over the looper to recognize a stunt because the looper is the guy making the obvious move, but Williams was slow to recognize it here. The defensive end for Atlanta even does a crappy job of selling a normal rush. He takes two choppy steps and doesn't really get up field at all. He's basically screaming "twist" from the snap and Williams is still slow to get inside.

And just because Turner sees the stunt early doesn't mean he plays it well. You can't just turn the defensive tackle loose without at least throwing a punch at him, unless your tackle bumps you inside before you can make contact, which clearly doesn't happen here. On top of that, despite abandoning the defensive tackle too early, Turner still doesn't do a good job of picking up the end coming inside, and frankly gets his ass handed to him.

It's an ugly football play. Blocking a two-man game in man-to-man pass protection is tough, but usually you at least get one of the two blocked. This play was indicative of the lack of chemistry between Turner and Williams all night. It's tough when injuries happen and you get guys who aren't used to playing next to each other. Bad stuff happens, but there were just too many sloppy combinations and too much leakage between the two in pass pro.

Even with issues on the right side and at left tackle, the Panthers were moving the ball a little bit in the first half. They didn't have a three-and-out in the first half and were on the cusp of the red zone a couple of times in the second quarter. On back-to-back possessions they had third-and-5 or less at around the 40 going in. They didn't convert either play and ended up getting just three points from the two drives. Looking back, I think they were the two most important plays of the game for the Panthers offense.

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Oh boy. I think that's a big play if Cam gives it. The back can cut right off of Turner's block and he's rolling. He'd probably have to run through an arm tackle from the defensive end, but I think Mike Tolbert can handle that. The run game takes all 11 guys to pop, and sometimes the best player on the field can make a mistake too.

While we're here, look at how disciplined Kalil (67) is with his feet. It's third-and-3 in a big moment and it would be real easy for him to get over aggressive, chase that backer, and try to drive him into next week. But he stays with his footwork just in case they're running a game with the backside defensive tackle (who shifted towards him late). If the tackle did slant hard and exchange gaps with the linebacker (a popular stunt to stop gun run), Kalil left himself in good position to pass it off with Turner. Here, the tackle doesn't stunt and Kalil is still able to knock the linebacker way wide of any hole that may open up.

I wanted to highlight this play because it's easy to point out when guys screw up and things go wrong. It's just as easy to point out when guys do right and it pays off on that play. But we don't point out enough when guys do the right thing, even if it didn't affect this particular play, because it's the right thing and it will matter eventually. Really good stuff from Kalil.

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This is how the next possession ended, and this one isn't on Cam. Let's start with the right side, where either Williams or sixth lineman Donald Hawkins (78) is looking at the wrong linebacker. This looks like a half slide protection where the man side (the right side) tackle and tight end (in this case, a sixth lineman, Hawkins) are responsible for the defensive end and SAM linebacker. I know it's not full slide because of how Turner reacts to the man he blocks.

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It's impossible to tell who's wrong, but to me it's clear that Williams thinks they have the defensive end and Deion Jones (45, who is playing off the ball), and Hawkins thinks they have the end and Philip Wheeler (41, playing right on top of Hawkins). Whoever was wrong about which linebacker they were working to, Williams is worse overall on the play because he can't get beat inside by that defensive end no matter which linebacker they are working to. Williams has inside leverage, he's stepping inside initially, and he knows he has outside help. I don't care if he's looking to the right or wrong linebacker, he cannot let that end cross his face and hit the quarterback. Inexcusable.

At left tackle, Mike Remmers (74) is also getting beat inside. At least Remmers is getting beat to where his help is, so it's not a mental and physical mistake. He just gets beat too quickly for Norwell (68) to be able to help him much. Remmers times his punch decently enough, but he's leaning way too far forward to throw it, and despite using too much body on it, the punch doesn't seem to have any power behind it. It wasn't the first time Remmers would struggle with a spin move on Sunday.

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To me, it looks like Remmers is panicking with all that space. Dwight Freeney is lined up somewhere between a wide-9 technique and a slot cornerback, and it looks like Remmers is freaked out by the alignment. He takes one kick step before just turning into a basketball shuffle and trying to mirror Freeney with his athleticism. That goes as you would expect it to. Also, look at his hands. They are all over the place in his shuffle, and then there's no violence when he throws them. He just kind of puts them out there and hopes Freeney runs into them. This is the set of a man who is not playing with a lot of confidence.

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Oof. Remmers looked like he didn't have a chance out there, and it's not the first time a bad game has snowballed on him. If you play tackle, you're going to get beat, but Remmers seems to be the type of guy that if he gets beat early, he's going to struggle all game. I want to see him back at his regular position before anyone starts calling for Williams full time, but it's clear that Remmers is not playing the way he needs to right now.


6 comments, Last at 10 Oct 2016, 9:13am

2 Re: Word of Muth: Carolina Shuffle

I support the "Clone Ben Muth" movement. At the very least, they need five of him plus a part-time converted tight end. His discussion of Kalil's play perfectly encapsulates why this column is some of the best content on the site: nobody talks about line play unless somebody is getting embarrassed or (even less likely) somebody blocks somebody else into next week right at the point of attack on a successful play. I think WRs who throw successful blocks on long runs or screens get more air time than the OL.