What has Bruce Campbell shown in his limited playing time? Is he the future at left tackle?
At the time of his acquisition, offensive tackle Bruce Campbell was thought to be a solid pickup. With unparalleled athleticism, and insane intangibles, the 2010 fourth round pick was thought to be good depth at offensive tackle, his natural position, more specifically, at left tackle, a potential longterm replacement for the aging Jordan Gross.
Despite the extensive injuries sustained by the offensive line, Campbell only saw sparse playing time in 2012. In all Campbell played 34 offensive snaps, most of which came in emergency relief for an injured Thomas Austin at left guard during Week 16. Campbell also participated in the Panthers 23 personnel package as an extra blocker.
In the near future the Panthers are going to have make a decision about the state of the offensive tackles: Whether or not to mete out Gross' exorbitant salary, if Byron Bell is can hold onto the right tackle job, or who can take over at left tackle in a year or two's notice. Naturally, Bruce Campbell, only 24 years old, will be heavily considered in those decisions.
Even though Campbell has not seen substantial playing time with the team, nor at his natural position, there is still much that can be learned about his technique, his athleticism, and perhaps some areas where he can improve.
First we will take a look at Campbell's pass blocking. In this Week 3 example versus the Giants, Campbell is aligned at left tackle (LT).
Campbell (73) is pitted against DE Jason Pierre Paul (90). Although it might not be the most routine matchup, Pierre Paul does present a good litmus test for Campbell's athleticism.
On this play JPP will be attempting a conversion move against Campbell, in which he will burst towards the edge, feigning a speed rush, and drawing the OT out of position before 'crossing the face' and exploding through the gap recently vacated by the OT.
Campbell does a good job of keeping Pierre Paul from gaining the edge, and displays phenomenal lateral quickness when sliding to prevent JPP from penetrating inside, relegating him to hovering outside of the pocket.
However, things go awry when the Giants DT pulls a stunt and kicks outside, immediately putting Campbell in a bad position.
The Giants DL wheels outside; Campbell is caught out of position. As he frantically shuffles back, Campbell is practically upright, abandoning proper pad level, and giving the Giants pass rusher all the leverage. The DL strikes with his hands first and bull rushes Campbell to within inches of QB Derek Anderson, nearly a sack.
Here is another example versus the Giants and Jason Pierre Paul.
In this frame Pierre Paul takes a wider than normal alignment. Campbell will need to make sure he cuts down JPP's angle to the QB with a quick first step.
Campbell does a fine job of protecting the edge against Pierre Paul, and is able to keep his pads lower than Pierre Paul's, however he once again allows the defender to strike first with his hands.
JPP executes a rip move on Campbell, and using his insane explosion and great hand placement, beats Campbell solidly.
Had Anderson held onto the ball for a millisecond longer, he would have been sacked.
Now here is an example against Oakland, Week 16. Campbell would play left guard against the Raiders.
The red triangle identifies Campbell, who will be up against Desmond Bryant (90).
Campbell's pad level here is not perfect, but he has done a good job of striking first with his hands.
A schematic design of Oakland's front will cause strife for the OL on this play. Notice the positioning of the Oakland DE (far right defender); as he takes a wide berth to the QB, LT Jordan Gross will have to shift outside to cut down his angle.
Bryant disengages from Campbell, and slides further outside, into the gap vacated by Gross. Campbell does a poor job of keeping up with Bryant, as the Raider pass rusher is able to beat Campbell to the edge of the B-gap.
Bryant reaches Cam Newton just after he releases a pass. Campbell has done just enough to prevent the pass rusher from sacking the QB. Once again, if the QB had held on for even a second longer, the result could have been disastrous for Carolina.
Here Campbell is playing left guard versus Oakland.
On this play Cambell's job is to block out the 1-technique, helping to seal the hole for Tolbert.
Campbell does not explode out of his stance, and allows the defender to strike first with his hands. Campbell's leverage is not great either, as his pads are not below his opponent's. The Oakland DL more or less has control of Campbell.
(Although slightly off topic, note here the ineffectiveness of the Panthers O-Line: the Panthers have devoted 8 blockers just to the front five of Oakland, yet, as we will see later, they still cannot open a good hole for the running back.)
As Tolbert hits the LOS, the Oakland DL slides his hands to Campbell's inside shoulder, and disengages from Campbell.
Campbell, without good leverage and good hand placement, is unable to stop the Oakland DL from disengaging his block and tackling Tolbert after a minimal gain.
Here is another example against Oakland, in which Campbell is at left guard.
The play is a pitch to RB DeAngelo Williams. Campbell's assignment is to block out DE Desmond Bryant (90).
Contrary to the last play, Campbell does a good job of exploding from his stance, and is first to strike with his hands, acquiring optimal positioning by placing his hands inside Bryant's outside shoulder. Also take into account Campbell's excellent stance: his hips are coiled to explode into the defender, and his pads are below Bryant's.
As Williams moves to the outside, Campbell does a nice job of keeping his hands on Bryant, preventing him from having a free run to the RB.
Here is one more look at Campbell's run blocking; again versus Oakland.
On this third down and short scenario, the Panthers have called an off-tackle QB draw for Cam Newton. Campbell will once again be blocking out Desmond Bryant.
Once more, Campbell does a good job of attacking first, and placing his hands inside Bryant's shoulder pads, while keeping good pad level; Campbell has won the leverage battle.
A second or two later, it's all over. Campbell has retained good pad level, and with his hand placement, is able to drive Bryant out of the play.
Now take one more look at Campbell's blocking. Although this play is technically a pass play, I've placed it under the run blocking category.
This play shows the breadth of Campbell's athleticism. Here the Panthers are running a play-action bubble screen to Steve Smith. In order to sell the play-action, the Panthers have Campbell pulling to right.
Campbell pulls tightly to his fellow offensive linemen, so as not to create a gap for a DL to shoot. His acceleration and quickness have actually allowed him to get ahead of the RB. Furthermore, Campbell does a good job of scanning the second level, looking for his intended target, the Raiders OLB (highlighted by the purple arrow). However, at the last moment, Campbell notices the blitzing DB, promptly swiveling his head. It looks as if Campbell is in no position to make a block on the DB; surely the DB has the speed to blow right by Campbell to Tolbert and Newton.
In just two steps, Campbell covers the lateral distance, and delivers a punch to the DB's shoulder, slowing the Raider Blitzer down just enough for Tolbert to finish the block.
Although not a perfect block, this play highlights Campbell's solid technique, and startling athleticism.
There is no question that Campbell has the athletic ability to play left tackle in the NFL. While albeit lacking consistency, his foot speed is top notch.
Perhaps his biggest problem is his hand placement; Campbell struggles getting his hands in position to stave off defenders. Campbell needs to get his hands in place before the defender. Not just that, but he must get his hands inside of his mark's shoulder pads.
If he can fix his hand placement, develop a good punch, and become more consistent with his pad level and foot speed, Bruce Campbell can become a starting caliber left tackle for the Panthers. But until he demonstrates these traits on a consistent basis, I (nor should the coaching staff for that matter) would not feel comfortable handing him a starting job at either right, or left tackle.