Mike Goodson and Jordan Gross: Where Carolina's Backfield, Line Can Go From Here

Robert G. GilbertContributor INovember 24, 2010

Mike Goodson and Jordan Gross: Where Carolina's Backfield, Line Can Go From Here

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    Running back Mike Goodson in actionStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    In a previous article, the SRG Positioning Algorithm™, created by Explosive Growth author Glenn E. Dawson, was applied to Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback, Jimmy Clausen. Here again is the Algorithm, now applied to the running backs and offensive line of the Panthers:

    The SRG Positioning Algorithm™

    1) Where are you, really?

    2) In what direction are you going?

    3) How will you likely go?

DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart & Mike Goodson: Where Are They, Really?

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    DeAngelo Williams, now on Injured Reserve.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    • Where are the running backs, really?

    The Carolina Panthers, once feared for their two-headed rushing attack, have struggled running the ball this season—prior to the advent of second-year back, Mike Goodson. One reason for this has been poor blocking from the offensive line, as well as no respect for the passing game from opposing defenses. 

    Moreover, the offensive play calling has not been designed for success. DeAngelo Williams had shown some burst before being placed on injured reserve, but for the most part, the rushing attack has been virtually nonexistent. Now, the injury bug has bitten the position, with Tyrell Sutton, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart all hurt.

    Mike Goodson, a running back previously used more as a receiver and kick returner in the Panthers offense, started in place of Williams against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Baltimore Ravens, and has easily claimed the starting slot for the duration of the season. Goodson’s play has been a pleasant surprise, as he has been able to hit the cutback lanes that have featured so prominently in DeAngelo Williams’ career, and break the tackles that Jonathan Stewart had struggled with all season. Goodson’s success has made it so that one of the two higher-profile backs may find himself traded in the offseason so as to bolster other positions.

Carolina Panthers (and Jonathan Stewart): In What Direction Are They Going?

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    Jonathan Stewart being helped off the fieldStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    • In what direction are the running backs going?

    At this point in the season, just like the rest of the offense, there is no direction—and with no direction comes the arrival of entropy. A direction for the offense needs to be established. For the running backs, the ideal direction would be for them to return to former dominance, and at the very least, to give Jimmy Clausen (or another QB) a strong enough rushing attack that it doesn't force him to do everything. Mike Goodson has given the team something to build around, and that should do nothing but enable a direction’s establishment.

Carolina Panthers Running Game: How Will the Running Backs Likely Get There?

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    • How will the running backs likely get there?

    With the struggles of the offensive line, production from the running backs may depend on the savvy-ness of the offensive play calls. The best way to deal with run blitzing is to catch the defense with screens, but the Panthers have done a poor job of executing on screen plays.

    However, screens should still be a focus in practice, in addition to plays similar to screens—the check-downs, the quick timing routes, et cetera, in the plan outlined for Jimmy Clausen in this article, apply again here.

    Some gadget plays also have the chance of opening up the rushing game—having Mike Goodson take the ball to the outside and then throwing it back across the field to Clausen (or another QB), who could then throw it deep. This might be worth considering, or faking that play so Goodson can continue running.

    Another idea may be to modify the hook and ladder play—have the running back split out towards the sideline, and hit the tight end with a pass on a hitch route, timing it so that the tight end can then flip it to the running back with a head of steam.

    This play could be run after throwing the ball deep to stretch the defense, as the safeties and linebackers may give more of a cushion in coverage. It is imperative that the passing game and the rushing game work in cohesion with each other to spread the defense out and confuse the defense. Running should not take away from passing, and passing should not take away from running—the two elements should instead be a complement to one another.

Jeff Otah & Jordan Gross: Where Is The Carolina Panthers Offensive Line, Really?

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    • Where is the offensive line, really?

    The offensive line play has gone along with the theme this season: A lack of direction resulting in a lack of production. Without a vision, without an idea of where to proceed in the future, you become mired in the quicksand, slowly sinking.

    The line has not been able to give any quarterback sufficient time to diagnose a defense and make a play and has rarely been able to consistently open holes for the runners. John Fox has looked for improvement by shuffling some of the players on the line, but it hasn't worked yet. I still contend, though, that it is a coach's job to provide improvement.

    Also, right tackle Jeff Otah has missed, and will miss the rest of, the 2010 season. This has created a domino effect alongside the offensive line. False starts have also been a problem for tackle Jordan Gross, tight end Jeff King, and others.

    One symptom of false starts that no one might be thinking of is the change in quarterback cadence during the season. Four—technically five—different quarterbacks have taken snaps for the Panthers this season, in addition to players starting on the line who had not normally been starters. Going from one cadence to another may be contributing to the false start issue.

Carolina Panthers Offensive Line: In What Direction Is The Line Going?

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    Guard Travelle WhartonStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    • In what direction is the offensive line going?

    A recurring theme throughout this article is that there is no direction, or a lack of direction, which allows entropy to set in—players do not have a vision they are working towards, they are simply being asked to go out on the field of play and risk their bodies for schemes that are not designed to give the best possible chance of playing true offense.

    For the line, the goal, the direction, the vision should be to provide more-than-adequate blocking in both the run game and the passing game. Continuity at the quarterback position should help them with that, somewhat.

How Will The Carolina Panthers Offensive Line Likely Get There?

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    Jimmy Clausen under center for CarolinaStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    • How will the offensive line likely get there?

    First, keep the current personnel grouping. More switching will just make it harder for the line to gel and develop chemistry.

    Secondly, keep the same quarterback behind center as much as possible so that they become attuned to him (obviously injuries can make that harder).

    Thirdly, diagnose what it is exactly that is making them struggle in run-blocking—is it technique? A lack of fundamentals, missed assignments, lack of motivation, et cetera?

    Once the factors have been determined, work hard on coaching them through these problems, helping them develop, whether thorough extra repetitions in practice, extensive film study, or other methods.

    Do the same for pass-blocking, in addition to creating a fast-paced, up-tempo passing attack where the ball gets out in 3-4 seconds. This will take pressure off of the offensive line to hold the opposing defensive line back.

    For further analysis on other areas of the Carolina Panthers, please visit this link.