Forget about the way the Philadelphia Eagles offense manhandled the Carolina Panthers on Thursday. Yes, the Eagles churned out 401 yards on offense against a top-10 Panthers defense that’s supposed to be better in 2013, but that’s not what Carolina fans should worry about.
There are far bigger problems.
First, a few reasons why Philadelphia was able to move the ball at will against Carolina.
Chip Kelly’s influence on the offense was amazing. Both Nick Foles and Michael Vick moved this uptempo offense with efficiency and speed. Plays were called and ran between 18 and 35 seconds of the previous tackle for most of the night.
Rookie defensive tackle Star Lotulelei told Joseph Person of the The Charlotte Observer that the speed of the game was an issue.
I got tired, but that’s all part of the game. Just got to fight through it, get to the next play and keep sound fundamentals. Get off the ball is what we teach in our defensive line room. So that’s what I have to do.
The Eagles pasted 401 yards on the Panthers and that was after the Carolina defense forced three turnovers. Still, there won’t be too many teams that can crank up the speed on offense like Philadelphia.
The bigger problem coming from Thursday's game was the offense's inability to get things going.
Carolina scored nine points, gained just 278 yards on offense and totaled only 15 first downs in the game. The Panthers were forced to punt seven times. Even worse, Carolina’s third-down efficiency was a mere 29 percent.
Mike Shula’s new offense was stymied and blame might rest squarely on the shoulders of the new offensive coordinator.
Quarterback Cam Newton was off-target quite a bit. Some incomplete passes were erratic throws while others were results of a collapsing pocket.
Here’s a third-down play in the first quarter where Newton’s ability to use his feet kept him from being sacked as the pocket closed.
As you can see, his receiver released and took the defensive back away from the scrambling Newton. This is typically a time when Newton tucks the ball and runs, and there was definitely space.
However, Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox closed the lane and forced Newton to throw an incompletion. Cox is one of the few defensive tackles in the NFL with the speed to keep up with a quarterback, but he shouldn't be able to catch Newton if Newton is dead set on running.
Is it possible that, because of Shula's new offense—where Newton stays in the pocket and throws—Newton is a bit gun-shy about tucking the ball and using his feet to get first downs?
On the next series, once again on third down, Newton moves outside the pocket and looks downfield because he needs 20 yards for a first down.
He has DeAngelo Williams in the flats, but that won’t get the Panthers a first down. Newton could have also taken off. That likely wouldn't have netted a first down either, but both options would have gained some yardage and put Carolina in a better position to win the field position battle after the punt.
Newton chose to force a throw to Steve Smith and greatly overthrew him as well as the defensive back four yards behind him.
The right move there was for Newton to run the football. But that’s not happening in the 2013 preseason thus far. By design, it's not supposed to happen much at all, as Shula and Ron Rivera want the read-option to be used much less.
It seems like Newton's overcompensating, though. The Panthers took the read-option away from him and now he doesn't seem to want to gain yardage at all with his feet.
That’s not a good recipe for the Panthers.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.