Monday, June 19, 2006

Panther Prescription | by Jay

Did you read the SBT link in the last post? Lots of interesting stuff from Charlie there. Including:

"Everyone knows we went down and spent time with the Carolina Panthers. I think that helped us on offense. It helped us on defense. It helped us on special teams, because some of the issues that we felt we were deficient at, we went and shared information with them, and we think it gave us some insight at handling some things that might be a better way than what we were doing.

"I'm going to try to do that each year with a different team, with a different NFL team. I think I have 11 years in me. I think I have 11 years' worth of places to go."

Why Carolina this first year?

"Why? Because there's some things that we wanted to do on defense that (Carolina coach) John (Fox) is really good with. There are some things that we wanted to do on defense that they already do and also Mike Trgovac and Rick (Minter) already worked together, so there was already a rapport there between the two defensive coordinators, so that made a lot of sense.
I confess I didn't know much about Carolina's defense under John Fox, so I did a little googling. Here's a couple of articles I found interesting: one from when Fox took over in '02, and one from earlier this year.

"Panthers Lose Leash", St. Pete Times, 11/15/02.

Del Rio's scheme has made a noticeable difference. It is an attacking style that puts a premium on getting to the quarterback, especially among its defensive linemen. Rucker and Peppers, who are speed rushers, are often turned loose on the outside, and blitzes can come from virtually anywhere.

It's little wonder that Carolina's linemen have accounted for 29 of the team's 33 sacks. Sunday against the Saints, the team's two sacks were registered by Peppers and Rucker.

"We're getting on the edge and hitting it instead of getting in front and two-gapping like we did in the past," Rucker said. "It plays to our advantage. I'm not a two-gapper. I'm a guy that gets on the edge and goes. Peppers is the same way. And that's what we're doing this year."

Perhaps the genius of the Panthers scheme is its many disguises. Few teams camouflage their blitzes as well as Carolina.

They do it by constantly moving and showing offenses an array of defensive fronts and formations. Just before the snap, they might shift their defensive line or slide their linebackers into different lanes, anything to try to confuse and disrupt blocking assignments.

"Fox Brings Fire to Panthers D", the NC News & Observer, 1/20/06

Under former coach George Seifert, the Panthers employed a two-gap defense. In that scheme, a defensive lineman had to engage his opposing offensive lineman and hold him up until the defender saw which way the play was going, then the defender could go after the ball carrier.

"It's going to make you a step behind a little bit," said Panthers defensive end Mike Rucker, who explained that Fox installed a more aggressive one-gap scheme which allows defenders to shoot through the offensive line almost immediately. "[Now], we don't wait around for them to do something. We go and we get it and we force our issue. That seems to work around here."

The new scheme and attention to details Fox imported from New York were immediately evident. In 2001, the Panthers generated 26 sacks and opponents averaged 371.4 yards of offense. The next season, under Fox, Carolina's sack total jumped to 52 and opponents' yards per game fell to 290.4.

I like that part of the defense with Julius Peppers. Can we put that in? Kidding aside, what parts of the Carolina scheme will Minter and Weis try to repurpose at ND?