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Panthers vs Buccaneers: Offensive preview

A new era begins for the Carolina Panthers offense.

Detroit Lions v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

This has been a fun week, hasn’t it? The Carolina Panthers relieved head coach Frank Reich of his duties just 11 games into his tenure. That was quickly followed by quarterbacks coach Josh McCown and running backs coach Duce Staley getting their walking papers. The latter decisions were made by interim head coach Chris Tabor as soon as he took the gig, so he clearly was not a fan of whatever was going on with those coaches.

Given Reich’s involvement in the offense and the dismissal of two other offensive coaches, there’s reason to believe the offense will look at least a little different for the remainder of the season. There have already been a few post-Reich reports painting a picture of disarray and a stubborn resistance to change.

There are some more nuggets in that video with Steve Smith and Kyle Bailey about Frank Reich’s reasoning behind taking back play calling duties and other decisions that were made in the final days.

All of that to say is that this isn’t Frank Reich’s offense anymore. There’s very recent precedent elsewhere in the league for how much of a difference a change in offensive coordinators can make. Last week, the Steelers dismissed offensive coordinator Matt Canada after two-and-a-half ineffective seasons in charge of their offense. The Steelers had zero games with 400 yards of offense. In the first game after his dismissal, the Steelers racked up 421 yards of offense against the Bengals. An offense that was heavily reliant on bubble screens and sideline throws suddenly attacked the middle of the field and fed tight end previously dormant tight end Pat Freiermuth to the tune of a career high 120 yards.

Hopefully the Panthers find the same spark. This is Thomas Brown’s offense now. He doesn’t have Reich telling him what he is and isn’t allowed to call. He has a chance to make his mark and show why he was so highly regarded as an up and coming offensive coordinator/future head coach before he arrived in Carolina. That starts on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have a defense that can be taken advantage of. They’ve allowed 5.7 yards per play this season, sixth worst in the NFL. They’ve lost six of their last seven games and are unraveling. It’s a can-win spot for the Panthers. Here’s what the offense needs to do to make it happen.

  • Open it up. There’s nothing to lose at this point, and the offense can’t really be any worse than it has been up to this point. Let it fly. The Buccaneers are the right team to do it against. They are eighth in the league in yards per carry allowed, so it could be tough sledding on the ground. However, they allow 7.8 yards per pass attempt, which is 28th in the league. They’ve been a little better lately, and they’re better at home, but the Panthers aren’t going to get many better match-ups to get the passing game untracked.
  • Get the tight ends involved. The Buccaneers have been somewhat vulnerable to good tight ends in recent weeks. They’ve given up three tight end touchdowns in the last five games. The two games they didn’t were against the Titans and Colts, who don’t have much talent at the tight end position. Not that the Panthers have world beaters at that position, but Hayden Hurst and Tommy Tremble are decent and Stephen Sullivan has arguably been one of the better receivers on the team when he’s been targeted.
  • Play loose. This is pretty similar to the first point, but it really needs to be emphasized that the Panthers have nothing to lose. Go out there, have fun, and try to put some good stuff on film.