Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Here’s what the Panthers shouldn’t do this season to take advantage of all their new offensive weapons:
Line Christian McCaffrey up in the I-formation. Give him a first-down handoff up the gut for a gain of two. Then, if Cam Newton cannot make something happen on second down, bring Curtis Samuel off the bench for—surprise!—a screen pass that the entire defensive line knows is coming.
McCaffrey and Samuel are multidimensional playmakers who completely change the complexion of the Carolina offense. Instead of pounding the ball between the tackles (sometimes with Newton) to set up deep shots, the Panthers are now built to get the ball to playmakers in space, both on the perimeter and short in the middle of the field.
In other words, this is a team that is custom-tuned to bring the option back the NFL.
Free Cam Newton
The Panthers already use a lot of option principles, of course. They just aren’t getting enough bang for their buck. Or too much bang for their buck, if by “bang” we mean “hits on Cam Newton.”
Newton rushed 73 times on designed running plays last season, according to the Football Outsiders database. He gained 308 yards and scored five touchdowns on those runs, the touchdowns all coming on goal-line plays. That’s a lot of rushing, and frankly, 4.2 yards per carry are not really worth the additional hits it meant for Newton.
Part of the problem was many of those designed runs were not options. A few were sneaks for short yardage. Many were quarterback draws or inside power runs, with no option for a handoff or pitch. Franchise…
click here to read the rest of this story