Iyanla Vanzant spent 10 years on OWN fixing dysfunctional people and carrying the network’s ratings.
Millions tuned in to see Vanzant fix those in a fix. Her unorthodox problem-solving methods were equal parts, comical, cringe, and poignant, but they were effective. Something was going to get ‘fixed’. It didn’t matter if it was her guests or Oprah’s viewership, Vanzant stayed with a solution on deck.
Carolina Panthers’ offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo isn’t Vanzant, but he might as well be. In case you need a reminder, beloveds, the Panthers’ offense is in need of healing and fixing. They finished 30th in the league in total offense last season. Quarterback Sam Darnold finished the season splitting time under center with Cam Newton. Questions about Christian McCaffrey’s effectiveness swirled due to being a regular on the injured list. McAdoo will have to rebuild and define Carolina’s offense, but what does that look like? What should that look like? Here are some ways that McAdoo can “fix” the Panthers’ offense.
Designate Mayfield as QB1
When the Panthers traded for Baker Mayfield last month, GM Scott Fitterer said that it would be an open competition between Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Matt Corral for QB1. Now after 10 days in training camp, is there really a need to prolong the competition? Mayfield’s willingness to throw deep and generate explosive plays through the air gives him the edge. While Darnold’s been efficient-throwing short and quick passes to the tight ends and running backs, the reality is that it’s been done before. The Panthers’ offense has been too conservative. If it’s not run-heavy, they’d rely on check downs. They’ve done it with Teddy Bridgewater and they’ve done it with Darnold – with nothing to show for it but landing in the bottom third of the league in offense. When is come to interceptions, Mayfield and Darnold are close. They both have had issues with turning over the ball. What separates the two is that Mayfield has the stronger arm, can throw deeper, and will try to win a game-risk taking and all (his 92 passing touchdowns compared to Sam’s 54 show that). Darnold will check down, throw intermediately and at times, manage the game versus going for the win. Panthers’ head coach Matt Rhule has kept his decision close to his vest, with the official announcement likely being made after the second game of the preseason. Granted, this approach is understandable, but on the other hand…why wait?
Hurry Up and Go West!
In New York, McAdoo ran an up-tempo offense that frequently ran no-huddle sets to keep defenses off balance. McAdoo’s schemes with the Giants had tinges of West-Coast offense principles – in terms of getting the ball out quickly to the wide outs in a spaced-out field. With the Panthers, McAdoo might want to lean into the West Coast Offense a bit more to accommodate the Panthers’ small receiving corps. DJ Moore is 6’0, Rashard Higgins is 6’1 and Robbie Anderson is their tallest receiver at 6’3. With that said, WCO typically downplays quicker, larger receivers who are easily covered in traffic and require receivers who can consistently catch in traffic and produce yards after the catch. Moore has shown flashes that he’s that type of receiver.
Plus, running a WCO with scripted plays would benefit Mayfield in terms of giving him structure and minimizing mistakes. The scripted plays, for the most part, will be predicated on short quick passes. After the first 15 plays, or so, or when the situation calls for it, Mayfield can stretch the field by throwing deep.
Change CMCs Role
In a previous article, I suggested that McCaffrey should be limited to possession snaps. The Panthers have D’Onta Freeman and Chuba Hubbard to carry the load at running back. This gives CMC the slot. CMC in the slot will give Mayfield another option and a bit of security in short pass situations when other options are covered.
Last year’s Panthers struggled offensively and it was the defense that, more often than not, won Carolina the games they won. At times, it seemed as if the Panthers’ offense didn’t have a clear-cut identity. McAdoo can, and should, implement principles from his previous stops to help the offense be high tempo, assertive, and scoring peace and not in pieces.