In a three part series I have tried to break down what the Panthers offensive philosophy was with OC Jeff Davidson at the wheel. Feel free to check out 2009 CAR at NYG part 1 and 2010 CAR at SEA part 2 if you haven't already. Both of these also give an overview of how the information is being presented.
So we know Panthers have an offensive system that will hold a lot of similarities to what the San Diego Chargers run under head coach Norv Turner. What does that mean for the Carolina Panthers? Is FB a forgotten role on the team in this offense? We have some highly rated pass-catching TEs... how are we getting them onto the field? We're going to take a look at some of the tendencies in the running game and passing game. Breaking it down by half, down & distance, and any other way that looks like it may reveal some hints about what we can expect.
I picked the game against the 49ers because it was a matchup that the Panthers had in common. The Panthers relied on a late field goal to lift them over the struggling 49ers. The Chargers lit them up 34-7. Similar to the CAR at NYG game in 2009, the Chargers ran out the clock in the 2nd half with a lot of runs and sound defensive play. Therefore, this article covers the first half statistics only.
We'll jump into some of the stats and I'll do my best to reveal some differences... after the jumpAnybody else tired of running straight into a stacked box with 8 or 9 or sometimes 10 guys on first down? The following table illustrates very clearly that the Chargers see first down as an opportunity to attack. Getting into 2nd and manageable puts the offense in a very advantageous position. The following table shows where their yardage came from in the first half:
Under former OC Jeff Davidson, the Panthers would get the lion's share of their yardage out of the 12, 21 and 22 personnel sets. The Chargers on the other hand, used the 22 set sparingly in this half (3 runs). Combined with the 21 set, the FB was on the field for 13 of 32 offensive plays. Anyone who thinks the FB is an obsolete position in this offense needs to consider this strongly. The largest difference by far is in the 11 personnel set. The Panthers rarely operated out of the 11 set unless they were very far behind (and even then, they often preferred the 12 set), or in the two-minute offense. It almost always produced embarrassingly poor results.
So that's great... but how are the Chargers getting all these yards? Would it surprise you to learn that 61% of those 234 yards came from four plays? Here they are:
When we hear the Carolina Panthers coaching staff talk about getting vertical and aggressive on offense, I'm fairly confident this is what they have in mind. Something to consider is that this is an offense that is humming along quite nicely with QB Philip Rivers at the helm. Additionally, this only accounts for 4 out of the Chargers 32 plays on offense in the first half. What's going on the rest of the time? Where do the rest of the yards come from? Of the 32 offensive plays in the first half, exactly half of them gained at least 1 yard, but no more than 10. The following chart shows these plays which consist of 10 runs and 6 passes.
(note: FD = First Down)
Of the five first downs among these plays, four of them moved the chains through the air. There's nothing fancy about any of these plays. For this offense, the short game can be overlooked by fans in contrast with the glitz and glamor of the big-play potential. These four plays in particular most fans will forget when they pay their bill and go home. They'll remember the 58 yard TD to WR Vincent Jackson to start the game. These plays are important to the success of this offense, though. An efficient short-passing game will enable the offense to take chances on the big play.
Take this information into consideration when debating the effectiveness of the Carolina QB group. QB Cam Newton has a good eye for the explosive plays. However, he needs to be efficient in the short passing game (in conjunction with an efficient running game) in order to exploit weaknesses behind the defensive secondary. QB Jimmy Clausen seems to work well in the short passing game... but can he drive the ball down field enough to help out the running game? In this offense, it clearly will not suffice going deep once or twice a game as we often observed during the Panthers 2010 season.