3 Formations Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers Must Try Post-Fumblerooskie Success
He has already passed for 17 touchdown and run for 13 more in a Carolina Panthers (5-9) offense that scored only 16 touchdowns in 2010.
Coincidentally, he also broke former New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan's 35-year-old single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback against the Bucs in Week 13.
Big Plays and Trickery
Much of Newton's individual success can be attributed to his physical talent, hard work and football acumen; however, offensive coordinator Rob "Chud" Chudzinski's creative play-calling and his teammates' execution have played a more than equal part.
In an Aug 2011 article in the Charlotte Observer, Chud told reporter Ron Green Jr. that his offensive philosophy is to be aggressive and attack the defense with the vertical passing game as the foundation of his attacking scheme.
Newton and the Panthers have done just that.
The Panthers have had one of the best big-play offenses in the NFL throughout the season, gaining yardage in big chunks both through the air and on the ground, and Chud's ability to utilize the skills and talents of his quarterback and the rest of the offensive unit are the biggest reason why.
Added coach Ron Rivera this week, "Cam’s ability to run and throw, it just adds another dimension, It has been kind of neat to see the different things we’ve been able to do with him over the course of the season and show he’s an integral part of what we are and what we’re going to become."
Even if that includes the occasional trickery like the touchdown scoring "fumblerooskie" play inspired by The Little Giants' "Annexation of Puerto Rico" in Week 15 against the Houston Texans (10-4) or Legedu Naanee's 27-yard completion to Newton in Week 13 against the Bucs.
Far be it from me to interfere with the Panthers' offensive playbook, but if I could slip in a few pages, it might look something like this.
Steve Spurrier's Florida Gators ran the "Fun 'n Gun."
Both were variances of a four-wide receiver spread, shotgun-based offensive formation that could be run from a huddle or without a huddle as a hurry-up method of moving the ball down the field.
With Newton's dual-threat ability as both a passer and a runner, he could be more dangerous in a Run-n-Gun system than any quarterback we've ever seen.
So, why not give Cam Newton a shot?
Steve Smith is Newton's only legitimate deep threat, and the Panthers lack the stable of quick, elusive receivers typically featured in the Run-n-Gun.
However, it could be an effective short-term option to get the defense on its heels for a few plays before returning to a more conventional offensive attack.
West Coast Waggle
The Carolina Panthers are at their best when they're running the ball well.
They are also pretty damn good when Cam Newton is passing the ball well.
When both aspects of the offense are clicking, then it's time for the "Waggle."
The Waggle is a play predicated on the threat of a run to the direction of the pulling guards while the quarterback has the option to sweep behind his blockers or to do a reverse roll-out to the opposite side while his tight end streaks back across the field from the blocking side, hopefully uncovered.
The idea is that everyone is going one way while the quarterback and tight end or receiver are going in the opposite direction and it can be run out of the Wing-T or West Coast offenses.
I can't remember how many times I watched John Elway and the Denver Broncos run this play successfully out of their West Coast offense in the mid-to-late 90s.
It got to the point where I could say to the television, "run the waggle!," on 3rd-and-7 or 2nd-and-goal, and Denver would run the play to perfection.
Everyone knew it was coming, but they could not stop it.
The Panthers could execute this play well and make it a staple of their offense with Newton's ability to move in the pocket, the Panthers' legitimate run threat and with Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey at tight end.
From Pee Wee football through college, the Muddle Huddle has been used as a way to spread out the defense for a two-point conversion attempt.
It's rarely used in the normal course of an offensive drive, but with Chud's recent play-calling, I wouldn't be surprised if the Panthers muddled things up a bit in the last two games of the season, especially if they have a comfortable lead and are driving deep into enemy territory.
Essentially, Newton would line up in a shotgun formation behind center Ryan Kalil with an off-side guard staying in his normal alignment while the rest of the offensive line shifts to one side of the field, 15-20 yards to the left or the right of the ball.
Newton could have a companion in the backfield, and he'd have receivers either bunched or spread to one side of the field and another skill player positioned behind the satellite wall of blockers.
Newton could then run the ball, hand it off or pass depending on how the defense reacts to the formation.
However, it's possible that the play would never begin because most NFL defenders have probably not seen a Muddle Huddle in so long that their only option may be to call timeout.
There are countless variations and play calls available out of the Muddle Huddle, and I think Chud just may have the cojones to call a play out of this formation.
Running Game Still King
If the Carolina Panthers passing game is butter, then the running game is the doughy foundation that makes this offense really click.
In the Panthers last four wins heading into Week 16, they have averaged more than 35 runs and fewer than 25 passes.
However, the big plays seem to be popping off with ever-increasing frequency as Chudzinski's playbook opens up all of its creative elements to the realm of possibility.
Do I think the Panthers should use a Run-n-Gun offense? Not as a staple, but the occasional hurry-up offense and spread formations keep the defense on its heels.
Should they Waggle? Absolutely.
As for the Muddle Huddle, the jury is still out, but I think they should give it a shot, if nothing else than to give Panthers fans something else to talk about in the offseason.
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