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Carolina Panthers Film Analysis: Taking a look at 6-OL formations

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The Panthers unveiled a new 6-OL formation last Sunday against the Bears. How effective was it, and will we see more of it moving forward?

The Carolina Panthers currently have one of the worst run games in the entire NFL. Despite ranking tenth in the league in rush attempts, they are only averaging 3.4 yards per carry, which is the fourth-worst average in the league. When you take out Cam Newton’s designed quarterback runs, the average drops even further to just 2.83 yards per carry.

A big reason why the Panthers are having significant issues running the ball is because they lack a deep ball threat at wide receiver. With defenses not having to worry about getting beat over the top, they can load the “box” with extra defenders (usually safeties) to clog up all the run lanes. The Panthers have tried running the ball out of heavier sets like 12 (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) and 21 (2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR) personnel, and also from spread sets like 11 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) personnel, but the results have been the same with no running lanes for Jonathan Stewart or Christian McCaffrey to run through.

In the second quarter of last Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, with the Panthers growing increasingly desperate to find a way to successfully run the ball, Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula decided to roll out a new 6-OL formation. The 6-OL formation is also called a “jumbo formation” and it features offensive tackle Taylor Moton as a “jumbo” lineman. Jumbo formations featuring 6-OL and 7-OL personnel are common near the goal line and short yardage situations, but the Panthers decided to experiment with this formation twice on first and ten situations.

The Panthers come out in their 6-OL set with one tight end on both sides of the offensive line. Despite the heavy personnel grouping, the alignment of the wide receiver and tight ends forces the safeties and cornerbacks (who are in zone) to slightly back out of the box.

Playing off in zone coverage protects them from any rub routes (picks), which are commonly used from very heavy sets. As a result, the Panthers have eight blockers against seven immediate defenders.

Newton takes the snap from shotgun and hands the ball off to Jonathan Stewart on an inside dive play. Although the middle of the line collapses, Stewart is able to bounce the run outside for a gain of five yards before getting tackled.

This extra-heavy offensive line formation works only if the offense can also pass the football. If you keep running the ball out of this look, those safeties and cornerbacks will eventually creep back into the box, and the offense loses the numbers advantage.

As expected, a few plays later on the drive, Shula calls for a double slant concept off play-action. Once again, notice how the safeties and cornerbacks have backed out of the box, leaving seven immediate defenders against eight blockers.

Ed Dickson is open on the inside slant route, but linebacker Danny Trevathan makes a fantastic play by getting his hands up to deflect the pass.

I was surprised the Panthers utilized this 6-OL formation only two times the entire game. It’s obviously a very small sample size, but the 6-OL formation was quite effective in moving defenders out of the box, which has been the Panthers biggest problem in the run game all season long. I’m curious to see if the Panthers will utilize the 6-OL formation more frequently moving forward.

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All GIFs and images courtesy of NFL.com