The Panthers No-Huddle Offense

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

In passing remarks new Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula has stated that the Panthers will move towards a more uptempo offense.

The wave of the future. The no-huddle, up-tempo, offense. Possibly returning 11 starters, the Panthers Offense, under the direction of new OC Mike Shula, is looking to employ more no-huddle sequences into the offense.

Last season the Panthers were disinclined towards making use of the no-huddle offense. In only nine games, roughly half of the season, did Carolina utilize the no-huddle, and at times just for a single play. Most of the usage came in predictable, fairly unsurprising instances; in the execution of a two-minute drill, when faced with multiscore deficits, or after an explosive play. In totality, the Panthers ran 32 plays from the no-huddle last season (discounting a spike, Week 7 versus Dallas, and including a Byron Bell false start penalty against Atlanta, Week 14) for a total of 178 yards (5.6 yards per play).

Breaking it down further:

Number of plays Number of yards Yards per play
2 minute drill 15 55 3.7
After gains of 15+ 10 58 5.8
In the red zone 5 8 1.6
Passing 17 132 7.8
Rushing 14 51 3.6
Total 32 178 5.6


About half of the no-huddle plays came in two minute drills, the final two minutes of either the second or fourth quarters, 15 plays for 55 yards (3.7 yards per play), although if you remove the two plays from Derek Anderson's series versus the Giants, in the waning moments of the Week 3 thumping, that number drops to 13 plays for 29 yards (2.2 yards per play).

The other noticeable intimation of the no-huddle was a big gain play, which I've categorized at gains of over 15 yards. A sage use of the no-huddle, the Offense would look to strike while the proverbial iron was hot, not allowing a defense to substitute personnel after surrendering a big play.

Even with the truncated field, the Panthers were conspicuously anemic with the no-huddle inside the red zone.

Almost aligning with Cam Newton's 2012 yards per attempt (8.0 YPA), the no-huddle passing game was fairly effective: Newton had a 75% completion percentage from the no-huddle. Perhaps the most surprising number in this dataset was the run-pass ratio, which was right around 50-50, especially in consideration of the two-minute drill numbers. There was a concerted effort to involve the read option into the no-huddle, which had mixed results. If you remove the outlier, a Jonathan Stewart 20 yard gait versus Dallas, the total drops to 13 carries for 31 yards (2.4 YPC).

Perhaps an indictment against the injuries and inexperience of the Panthers O-Line, there were very few spontaneous utilizations of the no-huddle. One such occurrence was Week 7 versus Dallas. From 13:36 to 12:22 of the 4th Quarter the Panthers entered the no-huddle, running four plays which took them from the Carolina 34, to the Cowboys 19. After a 9-yard reception by Steve Smith the Panthers went into the no-huddle, shifting their 11 personnel shotgun formation to a buckeye pistol formation, with WR Brandon Lafell assuming the role of the pitchman. Stuck in a nickel set, and with two safeties deep, Dallas isn't prepared to face the triple option.

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The Cowboys only have two defensive linemen in a three-point stance, and two OLB's. With DeMarcus Ware the read player on the backside, the Carolina blockers have a numerical advantage over the Dallas front six.

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DeMarcus Ware stays home; Newton gives Stewart the handoff. The RB sees the hole between Jordan Gross engaging a Cowboy LB, and Amini Silatolu on the DL, and hits it.

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Stewart picks up 20 yards, taking the Panthers to the Cowboys 46.

The Offense rolls with the same play from first and ten.

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Dallas is still in the same fundamental defense as they were to start the series.

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Ware stays home again, prompting Newton to give Stewart the ball. Only inches away from Stewart, C Geoff Hangartner is being manhandled by the Dallas NT. RT Gary Williams is struggling with OLB Anthony Spencer.

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The Dallas NT tosses Hangartner aside and grapples Stewart, slowing the RB down enough for Spencer and Ware to finish him off after a gain of one yard.

Not breaking stride, the Offense aligns in a 2x1 shotgun formation.

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Off of play-action, Louis Murphy will run a skinny post route, and Greg Olsen a drag route. The dropping strong safety will play man coverage on Olsen, while CB Morris Claiborne will drop in zone coverage.

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The safety abandons the middle of the field in chase of Olsen, while Claiborne stays outside, which leaves Murphy uncovered across the middle of the field.

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Newton finds Murphy who picks up 26 yards before being tackled at the Dallas 19. Through the use of the no-huddle, the Panthers have reached the Cowboys red zone.

Maintaining the momentum, the Offense again turns to a quick pass off of play-action.

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The target of this throw is Steve Smith on a slant against Brandon Carr.

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Newton locks in on Smith; ILB Dan Connor reads the QB's eyes and jumps Smith's route.

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Cam never sees Connor. Luckily the ball falls through his hands and hits the turf.

The last no-huddle play of that drive, Carolina would cap the series with a go-ahead touchdown run from Mike Tolbert. With the help of the no-huddle, the Panthers traveled 47 yards in four plays, in the span of 1:14, putting them into position to take the lead in the fourth quarter.

As Chris Brown of Smart Football notes:

Modern defenses want to match offenses in terms of strength and speed via personnel substitutions. They also want to confuse offenses with movement and disguise. The up-tempo no-huddle stymies those defensive options. The defense doesn't have time to substitute, and it's also forced to show its hand: It can't disguise or shift because the quarterback can snap the ball and take advantage of some obvious, structural weakness.

This was especially apparent as the Offense looked to exploit the middle of the field versus the Dallas zone, also attempting to pound the Cowboys weakened front six with the triple option.

It coincides with Shula and Co.'s simplification of the verbiage of the playbook, that the Offense may be looking to use more no-huddle. Speed kills, or so the mantra goes; the Panthers Offense will only become more dangerous with increased usage of the no-huddle offense.

With the schematic diversity of the offense, provided by players like Mike Tolbert, Greg Olsen, Richie Brockel, and Kealoha Pilares, or Brandon Lafell as we saw above, the Offense will find itself in a position to take advantage of many defensive mismatches. Without personnel substitutions, Carolina can morph from a 22 personnel set to a 31 personnel look, from the triple option to a four verticals concept. It all starts in minicamps and OTA's, but if the Offense can implement more no-huddle into their game, they'll become a more lethal unit.

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