Modern NFL offenses and defenses are continually evolving, so what will the future offenses and defenses look like?
Several good articles have been posted recently on this topic, and here are a few of their conclusions. Here's what nfl.com's Steve Wyche wrote.
"Not long ago quarterbacks were reading defensive ends and tackles to decide whether to hand the ball off to a running back or keep it and run. Now they're reading safeties and linebackers to exploit the part of the field the defense leaves open in the passing game." www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d82a44e69/article/passing-league-explaining-the-nfls-aerial-evolution
ESPN has some great stats to show just how much the passing game has increased in the last 25 years, and what it means for the future.
League Wide QB Passer Ratings
2011 - 84.0
2010 - 84.1
1988 - 72.9
1987 - 75.2
"Since the 1987 season, gross passing yards and attempts have increased by 25%. ... Pass rush now dwarfs coverage in terms of importance, but teams are emphasizing coverage skills at supplementary positions more than ever, especially at linebacker and safety, in the draft. ... Defenses have to find a way to get pressure on the quarterback with only four pass-rushers, (an NFC executive said) if your sending linebackers or defensive backs as blitzers, your going to get torn apart." www.espn.go.com/nfcnorth/post/_/id/43444/counters-to-nfl-passing-games-elusive
That last line of the quote is most concerning, because many posters on CSR have repeatedly stated that this will be RR's and the DC's answer to correct a poor Panthers pass rush this season, and perhaps it somewhat explains the defensive problems of last season. Perhaps, if Hardy moves to 4-3 DT, thanks to his new 299 pound weight, and rookie DE Frank Alexander starts at DE, maybe the pass rush from the front four will increase a little, but will that be enough?
Here's what NFL Films Greg Cosell believes the future holds.
"Traditional linebackers will find their roles - and snaps - significantly reduced. There will not be a place for them against offenses that feature 5 receivers with multi-dimensional abilities to attack all areas of the field. We will likely see more teams employ the Houston Texans' model. They played dime (6 DB's), not nickle. That allowed them to field better athletes with more scheme versatility and greater body flexibility and agility to play in space, ie coverage." www.nflfilms.nfl.com/2012/07/06/cosell-talks-the-evolving-chess-match/?module=HP11_content_stream
Great, now LB is the Panthers deepest position, and it's being phased out, LOL. Just joking. However, Cosell's idea seems to point toward a 3-2-6 defense around half the time in the future, so what are the implications for the Panthers.
1. By often playing 6 DB's the Panthers will need to carry more than just 9 DB's (10 or 11 DB's), probably including a 6th CB
2. By using 3 D-Linemen on half of the plays, they will have no need to carry 10 DL's, probably only needing 8 or 9 DL's
3. by using 3 DL's on around half the defensive plays, the Panthers will need a bigger 3-4 NT
4. With the reduced need for LB's, teams may no longer carry more than 6 LB's on their 53 man roster, and this might hurt the special teams
5. With the reduced need for LB's, one of the OLB's may well evolve into a combo OLB/SS, and the other OLB could evolve into a combo 3-4 OLB/4-3 DE.
If you question the need for 6 DB's on long yardage plays, here are some stats from a article by Mike Clay I posted about, around 2 weeks ago.
Team - Percentage of 3 or more WR Sets - Percentage of 2 TE Sets - Total
Patriots - 28% + 70% = 98%
Bills - 77% + 10% = 87% (they also used 4 WR's sets on 32% of offensive plays)
Chargers - 31% + 54% = 85%
49ers - 22% + 56% = 78%www.rotoworld.com/articles/nfl/40726/179/examining-offensive-personnel
It's probably too late for the Panthers to change their defensive for this season, but will they use next years draft to change the defense, or will they chose to fight the trend?