Are the Panthers running the football too much? The very idea sounds crazy doesn't it? However, let's go inside the numbers, and take a look.
I've wondered if the Panthers play selection might be the reason (at least a part of the reason) that the running game isn't clicking like we think it should. So far the Panthers running game has lookled like reverse cenergism (the total is less than the sum of it's parts). My theory from the first 2 games was that short gains on 1st down running plays were putting the Panthers offense in a hole, leaving them with way too many 2nd and longs, so I decided to check each individual play this week (maybe I'll do it next week as well). Here are the stats, make of them what you will.
Here are the numbers on the surface:
QB Cam Newton - 18 of 34 (52.9%), 158 yards, 1 TD, 0 ints - 7 carries for 27 yards, a 3.9 YPC
RB DeAngelo Williams - 10 carries for 18 yards, a 1.8 YPC - 2 catches for 17 yards, a 8.5 YPC - a 2.9 YPT (Yards Per Touch)
RB Jonathan Stewart - 10 carries for 59 yards, a 5.9 YPC - 3 catches for 26 yards, a 8.7 YPC - a 6.5 YPT
FB Jerome Felton - 1 carry for 3 yards, a 3.0 YPC
Now Go Inside the Numbers:
1st Down Passes - 5 of 10 (50% completions), for 60 yards - a12.0 YPC - a 6.0 YPA
1st Down Runs - DeAngelo Williams (9 carries for 15 yards, a 1.7 YPC) & Jonathan Stewart (5 carries for 21 yards, a 4.2 YPC)
The play balance is OK, 10 passes to 14 runs, but the average yards per play favors passing on 1st down, 12.O YPC and 6.0 YPA, to a 2.7 YPA rushing average. Stewarts 4.2 YPC isn't that far off his overall 5.9 YPC, and much better than his week 2 6 carries for only 5 yards, but Williams 1.7 YPC is killing the Panthers. Now let's go a little deeper inside the numbers.
Runs On 1st Down:
RB DeAngelo Williams - 9 carries for 15 yards (1.7 YPC) on 1st down, 10 carries for 18 yards (1.8 YPC) overall.
Runs Up The Middle On 1st Downs - 4 carries for 9 yards (0, +2, +3, and +4), 2.3 YPC
Runs Behind The RG On 1st Downs - 2 carries for 6 yards (+5 and +1), 3.0 YPC
Runs Behind The LG On 1st Downs - 3 carries for 0 yards (-2, -2, and +4), 0.0 YPC
RB Jonathan Stewart - 5 carries for 21 yards (4.2 YPC) on 1st down, 10 carries for 59 yards (5.9 YPC) overall. (NOTE: 2 plays were only listed as under review with no other discription late in the 2nd quarter, a 0 and a +2 yard gains, these must have been carries by Stewart, because I only found 4 carries for Stewart on 1st downs, and 4 carries on 2nd and 3rd downs, but he had 10 carries in the game)
Runs Up The Middle On 1st Downs - 2 carries for 6 yards (+1 and +5), 3.0 YPC
Runs Behind The RG On 1st Down - 1 carry for 13 yards, a 13.0 YPC
Runs Behind The LT On 1st Down - 1 carry for 2 yards, a 2.0 YPC
Conclusion, the Panthers just aren't getting enough yards on 1st downs when they run the ball. The NFL YPC for RB's are on average right around 4.0 YPC, but on 1st downs in week 3 Stewarts 13 and 5 yard carries, along with DeAngelo's 5 yard run were the only Panthers carries of over 4 yards on 1st down out of 14 carries.
Now On To The Panthers Carries On 2nd & 3rd Downs:
RB DeAngelo Williams - 1 carry for 3 yards, behind LT
RB Jonathan Stewart - 4 carries for 35 yards, a 8.8 YPC
Runs Up The Middle On 3rd and 11 - 1 carry for 3 yards, a 3.0 YPC
Runs Behind RG On 2nd and 10 - 2 carries for 12 yards, a 6.0 YPC
Runs Behind LT On 2nd and 6 - 1 carry for 20 yards, a 20.0 YPA
FB Jerome Felton - 1 carrry up the middle for 3 yards, a 3.0 YPC
QB Cam Newton - 6 carries for 26 yards, a 4.3 YPC
Runs Up The Middle On 3rd Downs (needing 1 and 3 yards) - 2 carries for 7 yards, a 3.5 YPC
Runs Behind RT On 2nd and 5 - 1 carry for 2 yards, a 2.0 YPC
Runs Around RE On 2nd Downs (needing 8, 9, and 10 yards) - 3 carries for 17 yards, a 5.7 YPC
One Game is hardly a trend (so I will try to do this next week), but it does seem to confirm what I suspected fro the first 2 games (I wish I had though of doing this then), and here they are.
(1) Short gains are on 1st down running plays are digging a hole for the Panthers offense.
(2) More running plays (58.3% of the time) are being called on 1st downs than passing plays (41.6% of the time), and this may be a trend opponents are expecting.
(3) The Panthers run game is much more effective on 2nd or 3rd and long (5.6 YPC, 12 carries for 67 yards than on 1st downs (2.7 YPC, 13 carries for 36 yards), when runs are less expected. The YPC for only the RB's are a 2.7 YPC on 1st downs, and 5.9 YPC ( 7 carries for 41 yards).
(4) The Panthers might be better off doing more of the unexpected, runnig less and passing more on 1st down, as shown in #2 and #3.
(5) A large part of DeAngelo's lack of production is that he's being ran mostly on 1st down (9 of 10 carries in week 3), when runs are more expected (see #2).
(6) The Panthers RB's are very seldom running wide (around end), only Cam when he scrambles.
(7) In general, the Panthers RB's YPC go up as their runs get further away from the center of their O-Line.
(8) The lowest YPC for Panthers RB's is surprisingly when they run behind veteran LG Trevelle Wharton.
(9) Passing on 1st down is more effective on 1st down (6.0 YPA) than running the ball (2.7 YPC).