In order to beat the New Orleans Saints at their house, the almost impenetrable fortress of home field advantage that is the Louisiana Superdome, the Carolina Panthers need to take a walk on the wild side.
It’s time to dust off Jeff Davidson’s playbook and find the section that reads “Wildcat Offense.”
The offense made famous at Arkansas by talented backs like Darren McFadden and Felix Jones could be the kind of spanner that the Panthers need to throw in the Saints machine on Sunday in order to pull off what would be an unexpected but very welcome win.
Think back to September 21st, 2008. The New England Patriots hosted the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Massachusetts and hoped to register what would have been their twenty second consecutive win, a record unheard of in today’s NFL.
However, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams had other ideas, as head coach Tony Sparano and former Panthers offensive coordinator Dan Henning formulated a gameplan that proved to be the undoing of the Patriots. The Dolphins seemingly scored or gained significant yardage on every play run out of the Wildcat, or single wing offense.
And I don’t think I would be speaking out of turn if I declared that the duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are more talented backs than Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are.
If we are being honest as Panther fans, Williams and Stewart are two of our best players. Jimmy Clausen, while promising in the long term as a prospect, has stepped in at the deep end, and like all young signal callers, has a lot to assimilate before he is capable of running this offense with more effectiveness.
Why not take some of the pressure off the former Golden Domer by switching the offensive gameplan up with the Wildcat?
The Wildcat’s most used play is known as the Dive Option. The quarterback splits out wide and lines up as a wide receiver, forcing the defense to account for him, usually with a cornerback. If the quarterback is lined up under center as usual, a defense does not have to do this. This already has a defense guessing.
In the Dive Option, both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart would be on the field at the same time. Williams would take the direct snap with Stewart motioning across the formation. If the defensive end crashes in and tries to take Stewart, he will keep the ball and run to the spot vacated by the end. If the end stays put, Stewart would get the ball.
It is such a simple play and yet it can be so effective.
In the NFL, the ability to exploit matchups separates the good coaches from the average ones. Although I don’t believe the Panthers should use the Wildcat extensively, it would be a changeup that the Saints, in all likelihood, would not have prepared for.
Yet another changeup—although a much more unlikely one—would be for the Panthers to activate Armanti Edwards, the former Appalachian State quarterback. With Edwards on the field, defenses would have to account for the threat of the pass out of the Wildcat, which many experts say is the next step in the evolution of this unique offensive philosophy.
The Panthers undoubtedly need to be able to capitalize on the Saints 30th ranked rush defense this Sunday, so why not take a walk on the wild side?
The results may just surprise you, and more importantly, the Saints coaching staff.