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CSR Film Room: The Carolina Panthers run defense is a BIG problem

The Panthers have an average overall defense, but their run defense has left a lot to be desired this season.

Through nine games, the Carolina Panthers have an average overall defense. That’s certainly good enough to win games in this league, but the splits of their run defense vs pass defense is astounding. Their pass defense is currently ranked No. 3 in the NFL per DVOA, but their run defense (ranked No. 32) brings their overall defense to No. 15 overall per DVOA.

I am firmly of the belief that pass defense matters more in today’s NFL than run defense. However, these type of splits are not healthy. For example, in 2017 the Jacksonville Jaguars had the best defense per DVOA. Their pass defense was ranked 1st, but their run defense was No. 27. The Jags had a poor run defense, but still Carolina’s run defense is historically bad.

It’s not as simple as saying scheme, gap integrity, or individual performance is solely responsible for the poor production. It’s an accumulation of all of those factors.

Run defense issues

Running the football successfully is primarily about gaining a numbers advantage over the defense. On this run, the Green Bay Packers are running a “duo” concept. To the play side they have five blockers, but Carolina only has four. This type of schematic issue has been an issue all season.

To their Panthers credit, they did try to scheme up Eric Reid on some run stunts to get into the backfield. On each run, the gap exchanges are passed and Reid gets into the backfield. It’s down to him to make the tackle, but he doesn’t. Reid, undoubtedly, had one of his worst games of the season at Lambeau Field.

Finally, the gap control was a massive issue. First, if the Panthers expect poor run defenders like Vernon Butler and Marquise Haynes to make a difference, then they should expect getting blown off the ball and losing the point of attack. Dontari Poe has been a disappointment as a run defender too. He was above average in this department for the Kansas City Chiefs, but the angles and leverage he’s taking is not ideal.

Donte Jackson’s performance

I want to give a special shout out to Donte Jackson for his performance on Sunday. He wasn’t perfect, but he saved two touchdowns by making spectacular plays on the ball.

I want to pay closer attention to the first deflection by Jackson.

The Panthers look to be in a Cover 3 match coverage on the back end while the Packers target Davante Adams on the deep post. Originally, I incorrectly blamed Boston for jumping underneath but I was reminded that this is a typical Carolina coverage. The safety jumps the crosser while the corner replaces him as the deep safety.

This is a similar example from last season against the Atlanta Falcons. Great execution by the secondary, but an even better play by Jackson to save the touchdown.

I fully expect the Panthers defense, but more importantly run defense to bounce back against the Falcons. Aaron Jones is a terrific back who causes issues for most teams. Despite beating the New Orleans Saints last week, the Falcons are dealing with injuries and Carolina should take advantage of it.