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The Potential Virtues of a Scat Back in the Carolina Panthers Offense

During the 2011 season the Panther's Offense was firing on all cylinders, racking up 393 yards per game to the tune of 25.4 Points per game. In addition to the successes through the air from rookie stud Cam Newton, the Panthers moved the ball on the ground with Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, along with the ever present Newton. However, towards the end of the season, Head Coach Ron Rivera professed his desire for Scat Back, in the mold of Darren Sproles, a player Coach Rivera became familiar with during his time in San Diego. At the time this statement puzzled me, seeing as we have two of the best Running Backs in the NFL alongside a dual threat QB, combining for the 3rd overall rushing attack in the NFL. However, upon further analysis, a scat back may provide a fresh flavor to the Panthers already deadly offensive arsenal.

In order to see the true value of a Scat Back, we have to look at the pinnacle of success at the position, Darren Sproles. This season Sproles racked up 609 rushing yards on 87 carries, and 86 receptions for 710 yards for a total of 9 touchdowns (two rushing, and seven receiving; I decided not to include return TD's.) Sproles was dynamite this year for the Saints, and provided a mismatch for any defense in the NFL.

[HD] Darren Sproles Highlights (via TheCameronizer)

Skimming through the video (especially past the obnoxious dances, and TD's against the Panthers...) it is plain to see the explosiveness and versatility of Sproles. At 1:35, Sproles rolls out of the backfield on a curl route matched up against a LB, easily making the catch in traffic and stepping into the endzone. At 2:48, Sproles makes a dig route running straight through the zone coverage to make the tough catch and capitalize upon the defensive break down. At 1:00, Sproles catches the check down pass and exhibits the run after the catch ability that catches the defense unawares.

A true Scat Back presents multiple problems for a defense set up in a base defense (4-3 or 3-4). The versatility that a scat back brings to the table allows an offense to present multiple reads to an opposing defense, mixing up the play calls and ensnaring the defense into a dazed confusion. A scat back can line up at RB and split out wide, forcing the defense to drop an extra LB out of coverage. Matching up a scat back with any Line Backer presents a multitude of advantages, and creates an instant mismatch for the offense, as seen in this familiar video...

Quizz 31 yard TD catch (via OSUBeaverTV)

In this play Jacquizz Rodgers (5'6 196 lbs) was matched up against our very own James Anderson (6'2 235 lbs) on a go route out of the backfield. Rodgers' straight line speed easily outmatched Anderson, who was burned for the easy TD.

The Panthers run the Air Coryell offense under OC Rob Chudzinski, which involves a lot of deep routes and downfield passing in the hopes to crack a big play, and ease pressure out of the box. Moreover, these deep routes take time to develop, time that allows opposing blitzers and Defensive Linemen to get closer to the QB and disrupt the pass. In result of this, much of the time, the safest play is to dump the ball off to the check down read, i.e. the RB or TE. It comes as no surprise then, that Jonathan Stewart and Deangelo Williams combined to collect 63 catches for 548 yards, good enough to be the 2nd leading receiver on the Panthers last season. An investment in another "factor back," as Merril Hoge likes to say, would significantly increase the effectiveness of these check downs and other screen plays, and likely help move the chains.

Looking towards the draft this season, there appears to be a few candidates who may be able to fill the position of scat back for the Panthers.

LaMichael James (Oregon) : 5'9 185 lbs. / Projected 4.38 40 yard dash

2011 stats: 247 rushes, 1805 yards, 18 rushing TD's, 17 rec., 210 yards, 1 TD receiving

Isaiah Pead (Cincinnati) : 5'10 193 lbs. / Projected 4.41 40 yard dash

2011 stats: 237 rushes, 1259 yards, 12 rushing TD's, 39 rec., 319 yards, 3 TD's receiving

Ronnie Hillman (SD State) : 5'10 190 lbs. / Projected 4.48 40 yard dash

2011 stats: 311 rushes, 1711 yards, 19 TD's rushing, 24 rec., 270 yards, 1 TD receiving

Chris Rainey (Florida) : 5'8 178 lbs / Projected 4.33 40 yard dash

2011 stats: 171 rushes, 861 yards, 2 TD's rushing, 31 rec., 381 yards, 2 TD's receivng

Chris Rainey 2011 Florida Gators Highlights (via MrJko23)

(sorry for the low quality highlight video)

I think that all of these guys could come in and bring a positive impact to the team as rookies, and add another weapon to our already potent offense. All of these guys (some more so than others) will provide mismatches in their NFL careers, and hopefully they may make the aforementioned impact with the Panthers.

What say you? Should the Panthers look to acquire a scat back? How would you like to see the Panthers use a scat back? And, Which back would you like the Panthers to target this offseason?

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