So today, let's take a quick look at some of Rob Chudzinski's Carolina offense from 2012.
For a quick review, the Panthers entered this Week 14 game with a 3-9 record. A 30-20 victory here against the Falcons propelled the Panthers to close out the season with four consecutive wins.
Unlike Horton’s Arizona defense, it’s a bit difficult to project 2013 Browns’ personnel into all positions of Chudzinski’s model. Certainly, the Panthers are built around all-world athlete Cam Newton. Because of the variety of read-option, Pistol-esque plays installed by Chudzinski to enhance Newton’s talent, a sizable portion of Carolina’s playbook won’t translate to Cleveland.
However, much of what was shown in this particular game should be seen again in 2013. And at times, it was evident that Chudzinski’s coaching roots – including some images of 2007 – were reflected throughout the game.
1st Quarter – No Score
Carolina’s opening drive was Newton-centric, as a variety of read option runs, play action and short passes put the Panthers into Atlanta territory. The game’s first score is a fairly simple play, but one that arose from a standard Chudzinski formation.
Newton is flanked by one running back and the receivers are four-wide. Tight end Greg Olsen lines up tight in the slot. The Falcons rush four and bring two linebackers on a late blitz. It’s difficult to tell if the blitz was designed – a la Dick Jauron – or in response to Newton’s read fakes.
Either way, the pass protection is excellent and the Panthers score a great downfield matchup.
After Olsen’s side of the field is cleared, he finds an ideal matchup against an undersized defender. The Falcons’ deep safety is predictably helpless and Olsen uses his size and hands to make an early big play.
Projecting ahead to the Browns, the read fakes could be replaced by what should a revitalized running game. And in an ideal situation, Jordan Cameron could become Chudzinski’s Cleveland version of Olsen – assuming Cameron can stay healthy, which has been a concern so far during his short career.
The play itself uses a wide receiver route to clear downfield space for the tight end/slot receiver – in this case, Olsen. Later in the game, these roles will be reversed.
2nd Quarter – Carolina leading 10-0
This next play shows just how effective a vertical offense can be in stretching a defense. Although sometimes lacking in overall passing efficiency, Chudzinski’s offense attacks downfield – and can take advantage of a defense willing to rush extra defenders. However, in a nod to Mike Martz, Chudzinski’s offense also forces quarterbacks to handle pressure.
On this play, it’s basically a set of vertical go routes. Atlanta rushes six and Newton definitely feels the pressure. Steve Smith is in man coverage, but Newton’s rushed pass sails out of bounds.
Again, the scenario is ideal and similar to Olsen’s earlier score. Man coverage is all over the field with one harmless Falcon safety deep. However, the key to this play – and probably the key to much of the Browns’ 2013 offensive success – will be in how Brandon Weeden handles defensive pressure.
In 2012, Weeden struggled with opposing pressure. Granted, Weeden played in perhaps the league’s worst offensive scheme in a decade. Yet, both in college and during last season, Weeden has shown a nervous tendency under pressure. In Chudzinski’s offense, success is found when quarterbacks can handle pressure long enough to take advantage of downfield matchups and make accurate throws.
3rd Quarter – Panthers leading 16-0
This next play would likely never happen for the Browns in 2013. However, let’s just enjoy it for what it is. But if you need some kind of technical analysis here, I would suggest that the front office bring in some quicker guards in September.
Or a Cam Newton clone in 2014.
4th Quarter – Panthers leading 23-7
Finally, let’s take a quick look at a standard Panthers’ run. This particular play gained eight yards and reflected the importance of having a quality blocking tight end. On the play, Gary Barnidge – now a Browns’ tight end – drives in to help seal the left side of the Panthers’ line. Left tackle Jordan Gross and guard Amini Silatolu help create a huge gap for DeAngelo Williams to jump to the second level.
Although a low-key free agent signing, Barnidge could prove to be a very important offensive contributor – simply with his blocking. While not an overpowering player, Barnidge has quickness and played effectively in what was a rangy, athletic blocking scheme. Ideally, the Browns’ 2013 offensive line shows similar characteristics. While often a sort of plodding group in 2012, much of the Browns’ potential running game success hinges on quick guard play.
As for the running backs involved, Williams has an ultra-quick first step and took advantage of a lot of misdirection. Naturally, Newton and the read option helped here. However, Chudzinski’s offense moves fast – particularly in how running plays develop. Here, a healthy Trent Richardson could take over some games. Yet, his backup – Montario Hardesty – could utilize his own quick read and first step and prove to be a breakout player in 2012.
Coming soon – we’ll take another look at what 2013 could potentially bring.