Film Study: A deep dive of the Panthers offensive weapons
12 October 2017 Eagles News
With Philly coming off a great win on Sunday, the Eagles now face off against the 4-1 Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football. With such a short turnaround, it’ll be imperative for the Eagles to come out firing on all cylinders. In anticipation of tonight’s game with the Panthers, let’s take a look at the Panthers weapons on offense, and how the Eagles might be able to slow them down.
The Panthers come into Thursday’s game with a few key injuries on offense, with center Ryan Kalil already ruled out for the game. Tackle Matt Kalil, wide receiver Devin Funchess, and running back Jonathan Stewart were all able to get in full practices Wednesday, ensuring they suit up on Thursday night.
Carolina’s offensive line has been a work in progress, but during week 5 they gave Cam a relatively clean pocket to work from:
Cam has a clean pocket to throw from, but still ends up throwing behind TE Ed Dickson. For most of the game the Panthers protected Cam versus an underrated Lions pass rush.
Again, Cam has no one anywhere near him and is able to complete a short simple pass to his receiver. If the Eagles can’t pressure Cam, he will pick the defense apart.
The Lions were able to dial up pressure on Cam when they blitzed him, and this play is the prime example. As good as the Panthers o-line can be, it’s no secret that they struggle with strong pass rushers, something the Eagles have in abundance.
After losing tight end Greg Olsen to a broken foot, Ed Dickson was thrust into a primary role for the Panthers and paid huge dividends week 5 against the Lions.
The Panthers utilize the play action extremely well, and on this play work Dickson away from the play initially, as Cam fakes the hand off and rolls out to hit Dickson on the move.
Cam again uses the play action to find Dickson running wide open for a huge gain. Dickson is a good pass catcher that can make plays at all three levels on the field.
The Panthers once again utilize Dickson in the middle of the field to exploit his size/speed mismatch over LBs and safeties. With the Eagles in the middle of the pack statistically in regards to defending TEs Dickson is someone that the Eagles will certainly have to key in on.
RB Jonathan Stewart has been a staple of the Panthers backfield for years now, but with the addition of rookie Christian McCaffrey (CMC) things are shifting towards the younger runner of the group. While Stewart is getting most of the carries and early down work, McCaffrey is arguably the biggest threat to the Eagles defense.
Panthers Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula finds creative ways to get the ball to McCaffrey. On this play McCaffrey receives a shovel pass from Cam to score his first TD of the season.
CMC runs the option/angle route here, which is something he mastered when he played at Stanford. This is such a dangerous play for CMC, and a play that RBs have burned the Eagles with previously.
These quick passes to the flats are utilized frequently by the Panthers to get CMC in open space. McCaffrey hasn’t shown the same breakaway speed this season as he did at Stanford, but he’s a great weapon in space no matter what. On the season CMC has 27 reception for 237 receiving yards and 1 TD.
Here’s a more traditional running back look for CMC, but he doesn’t get very many carries to this point in his career (6.8 per game).
McCaffrey is used on Special Teams as well, as a punt returner for the Panthers. His play making ability and short area speed make him a threat every time he touches the ball, but thankfully Special Teams is an Eagles strength.
The Panthers have a pair of the tallest wide receivers in the NFL, in Devin Funchess (6’5 230) and Kelvin Benjamin (6’5 240), and both specialize in winning contested catches. Benjamin is used as a physical presence on the outside, whereas Funchess is used both outside, and in the slot as a mismatch.
Out of the bunch formation Funchess runs a delayed drag route and picks up a strong first down by running through multiple tacklers. At 6’5 230 Funchess is a load to bring down, as shown by this clip.
On this play Funchess stays alive for Newton, running the back line of the end zone to make an acrobatic touch down catch. Through 5 games Funchess has 24 receptions for 269 yards and 3 TDs.
Funchess makes a great adjustment on a bad throw by Cam, and makes an incredible “hands” catch away from his body.
Cam throws an absolute dime to Kelvin Benjamin here, hitting him in the end zone for a TD against the usually stout Darius Slay. To this point, Benjamin has 17 receptions for 272 receiving yards and the above TD.
Benjamin used his size all game against Detroit’s smaller CBs, and on this catch he pulls down a contested first down pass to effectively end the game. Benjamin and Funchess will present a true challenge for the Eagles CBs, namely Rasul Douglas, Patrick Robinson, and Jalen Mills.
Cam Newton is the engine that makes the Carolina Panthers offense go, and when he’s on fire, he can completely torch an opposing defense. Against Detroit week 5, Cam was ridiculously efficient going 26-33 355 passing yards and 3 TDs.
Cam throws from another clean pocket (theme of the night) and finds an open Ed Dickson with a great pass down the seam. On this pass Cam uses great form to set his feet and get the ball out with great accuracy.
Much can be made about Cam’s sloppy pocket mechanics, but what can never be overlooked is his impressive arm strength. Here he throws an out route to the far sideline with out stepping into the throw, very few QBs can make this play.
The Panthers still run designed plays for Cam to keep the ball, though they’re looking to call fewer of them this season to prevent Cam from getting hit too many times. This is still an effective play for the Panthers, and one they will look to at least once on Thursday night.
When all else fails, Cam is a threat to beat you with his legs, as he does here for a first down. This is such a tough part of Cam’s game to stop, and the Eagles will need to spy him consistently throughout the game.
Here the Lions play Cam perfectly and keep him pinned in the pocket for a short loss. Cam is still a player that will begin to lost faith in his offensive line if you keep constant pressure on him.
Here Cam throws an errant pass to Devin Funchess along the sideline, not even giving the WR a catchable ball.
Here’s another example of “Bad Cam”, with Cam holding on to the football too long and taking an unnecessary sack. These are the types of plays that ultimately work against Cam over the course of the game, often killing the momentum for his team. For Philly to have a real shot at beating the Panthers, QB pressure will be the key, and fortunately the Eagles have the front 7 to do it.
This is a very winnable game for Philly, but it will take another stellar outing by the defense to make it happen. Cam started off the season slowly after recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, but is now as hot of a player as there is in the NFL. Add to the fact that Devin Funchess is playing the best ball of his young career, and Kelvin Benjamin is back healthy, and it makes this Panthers offense really dangerous.
The height advantage that Funchess, Benjamin, and Ed Dickson (6’4 244) present for the Eagles secondary will be where the game will be won or lost by Philly. Philly is strong against the run, so stopping Jonathan Stewart and Cam’s designed runs shouldn’t be as big of an issue.
I believe that TNF will be a defensive struggle, and will come down to who limits their turnovers. I predict a 17-13 game, with the Eagles pulling out a close win and taking a commanding lead in the NFC at 5-1.