Davidson: "I look forward to the challenge"

The Carolina Panthers tore a branch off the ever-growing Bill Belichick coaching tree on Tuesday in an effort to reinvigorate their struggling offense.

Jeff Davidson, who most recently worked as an assistant coach with the Cleveland Browns and was one of the coaches who played a role in building the New England Patriots into a dynasty, was hired to replace Dan Henning as offensive coordinator.

Panthers coach John Fox made the announcement from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Fox also said tight ends coach Dave Magazu will replace offensive line coach Mike Maser, who was fired on Jan. 15 in a coaching purge that included Henning and defensive backs coach Rod Perry. The Panthers have already hired Tim Lewis to replace Perry, so the Panthers' only vacancy is someone to fill Magazu's shoes at tight end.

In eight seasons (1997-2004) with the Patriots, Davidson contributed to five playoff appearances, including four division titles, three conference titles and three Super Bowl championships.

"Jeff has worked under some outstanding coaches, has a background with productive offenses and has been part of three Super Bowl victories with the Patriots," Fox said in a release. "He is a highly regarded young coach who has experienced every phase of the NFL as a player and coach and we look forward to having him on our staff."

When Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel left to take over as head coach of the Browns, he brought along Davidson to coach the offensive line and gave him the title of -assistant head coach. This past season Davidson took over the Browns' play-calling duties midway through the year after Crennel fired offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon.

"I am excited about this great opportunity," Davidson said. "It is an outstanding staff and I look forward to the challenge that lies ahead."

Sources close to the team said Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, a former offensive coordinator with the Patriots and a close friend of Fox, gave Davidson an outstanding recommendation. Carolina had been considering promoting quarterbacks coach Mike McCoy, but considered against it. The team also interviewed running backs coach Jim Skipper and Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese for the opening.

It's unclear at this point what type of offense Davidson will run, but it's almost guaranteed he will place a huge emphasis on running the football. To do that Davidson will have to work to the strengths of DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams unless he adds a true power back like the Browns had in Reuben Droughns.

Davidson inherits a talented offense that underachieved last season.

The Panthers fired Henning after averaging just 16.8 points per game in 2006, down nearly eight points per game from the year before. Only once during the season did Carolina score more than 26 points in a game after reaching that mark in seven out of 16 games the season before. The Panthers finished 27th in the league in offense and 32nd in third-down efficiency, converting just 31.1 percent of their opportunities and finished 8-8.

Davidson is a veteran of 16 NFL seasons, 12 as an assistant coach. Prior to becoming a coach, he played five seasons with the Denver Broncos (1990-92) and New Orleans Saints (1993-94).

From 2002-04, he served as the tight ends/assistant offensive line coach in New England. In 2004, Davidson worked with offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to emphasize consistency along the offensive line as there were only three lineup changes all season.

The Patriots' offensive line had the same starting lineup for the final 13 regular season games, and all three post-season contests, including a win over the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXIX.

As a collective unit, the offensive line helped RB Corey Dillon gain 1,635 yards on the year and helped Dillon top the 100-yard mark eight times. In addition, the offensive line helped the Patriots ground game feature big-play potential as there were 54 runs of 10 yards or more during the 2004 season. The Patriots' offensive line protected quarterback Tom Brady and allowed only 26 sacks all season, and ranked sixth in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed.

Davidson also assisted the tight ends in 2004, and helped the tight ends become a key ingredient in the Patriots offensive system with nine pass plays of 20 yards or more. Daniel Graham tied for the team lead with seven touchdowns and linebacker Mike Vrabel and backup tight end Christian Fauria added two touchdowns each to give the tights ends a collective 11 touchdowns on the season.

Davidson originally joined the Patriots as the tight ends coach in 1997, a season in which tight end Ben Coates led the team with 66 receptions. From 1998-2001, Davidson accepted the responsibilities as an assistant offensive line coach, returning his focus to a position he played professionally for four seasons.

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