Jonathan Stewart Injury: How Panthers Must Alter Offensive Approach with RB Hurt
Jonathan Stewart has a high ankle sprain. Rivera called him day-to-day. Those usually take a while. On a short week, tough turnaround.— Joe Person (@josephperson) November 27, 2012
As a result, the Panthers need to enter Week 13 with a different offensive attack against the Kansas City Chiefs. Yes, K.C. is the worst team in pro football, and the Panthers possess the ability to move the ball at will.
Nevertheless, injuries never help, and for the Panthers to finish the 2012 campaign on a good note, a modified approach when traveling to Arrowhead Stadium is required. By that token, let's see how Carolina can change to get a second consecutive victory.
Running Game Dynamics
One great thing about presenting multiple running backs are the various and intricate ways an offense can hit a defense between the tackles. Even with Stewart's injury, Carolina still has other reliable backs in DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert.
Although Tolbert is a fullback, his versatility enhances the Panthers' balance.
Obviously in any short-yardage situation he can slam up the gut, so keeping Tolbert with Williams simply keeps a defense honest. Whether it's split-backs, the I-formation or Tolbert offset to one side, Carolina can run more traps, power, counters and fake tosses from non-traditional looks.
And in this day in pro football, most defenses won't consistently anticipate any two-back sets. In turn, Cam Newton can then utilize more creative play-action passes.
What is Carolina's best offensive approach vs. K.C.?
How to Attack K.C. Pass Defense
For one, Kansas City must respect Carolina's ground game of Williams and Tolbert because their impact will keep the Chiefs off balance. Secondly, K.C. is weaker against the run, allowing an average of 126.1 rushing yards per game while also giving up 4.5 yards per carry.
So, combine Carolina's ground game with K.C.'s need to stop the run and Newton will see success through the air. Because of the ground game's potential against the Chiefs along with the varying formations, play fakes will be a common occurrence.
One prime example comes from an offset look where Newton can quickly fake to Tolbert and then fake again to Williams.
Provided it happens fast, the Chiefs defense will be flowing opposite of where Newton is rolling out. Kansas City has only collected 19 sacks this season, so the pass protection will hold up regardless of what type of pass play is called.
Also, the Chiefs rank dead last in the number of passes attempted against them (308). It's a key reason why K.C. still ranks No. 10 vs. the pass, although Romeo Crennel's defense has allowed 22 passing scores on the year.
Therefore, expect Newton to take multiple shots downfield and get K.C. on its heels early.
Just Let Cam Be Cam
Newton is at his best when improvising.
And his dual-threat talent was evident on Monday night when he accounted for four touchdowns and 358 total yards. Kansas City has also not gone up against a quarterback of his particular skill set in 2012.
Only Josh Freeman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers presented similar qualities in terms of mobility, but even he has developed nicely into a pocket-passer. Still, Newton without question possesses the arm strength to attack the Chiefs downfield.
It's what he must do off play action because Carolina will get the running game working vs. the Chiefs vulnerable defensive front. On straight drop-backs, though, he needs the luxury of running and passing.
Doing so will get the Chiefs even more off balance when sinking extra defenders into coverage. Newton can make guys miss in open space to extend plays, and the Chiefs will break as the game progresses.
In short, Carolina needs a win here and creatively running the rock to take pressure off Newton will get it done.
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