Yesterday I took a look at one specific play Gus Malzahn used with Cam Newton at Auburn, and how it appears the Panthers are building the personnel needed to run the 'inverted veer' option play in the NFL. I hope that brief snippit whet your appetite, because today we're looking in-depth at the blocking needed to run these plays with success- the 'Power O'.
The basis of 'Power O' has been around for a while, but has been used to great effect by Joe Gibbs and his Washington Redskins, Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh and it's part of the reason Auburn and Florida have had so much recent success running the football. The principles behind the blocking scheme are simple- send as much strength to one part of the field as possible. The basic idea is to overwhelm a defense with blockers, and open up holes for runners; simple in practice, not so easy in reality.
After the jump we'll look at what makes the Power O tick, and which Panthers' offensive linemen become of vital importance to run this package.
A traditional 'Power O' in a two tight-end, fullback set. (Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)
The first thing you might notice about this figure is how important the left guard, and fullback are in making this work. Firstly, the FB has arguably the hardest job in the play because his job is to get out of his stance and single block the strongside defensive end who is given free release by the RT and TE. If the fullback can seal the DE then he's done everything asked of him.
To this end the acquisition of Mike Tolbert was of vital importance. Not only does Tolbert have the blocking ability to hold up his end in this play, but the offensive ability to be a Swiss Army knife in other formations. Time will tell if Tolbert's value shows up on a box score, but I'm fairly confident he'll make a huge impact for the Panthers.
Then we come to the left guard- Amini Silatolu's role. As described yesterday in the inverted veer, his job is to quickly head right at the snap and become a second lead blocker. When he hits the second level he is charged with demolishing the outside linebacker. This is gap is opened by the right tackle, and right guard- the former takes the 3-technique DT, and the latter assists in the block before moving on to block the MLB, or safety where needed.
Here is where you need smart, heads-up linemen at the LT and RG spots. At both positions you need linemen who are able to quickly identify 'need' blocks, and rather than handle a specific player. As you can see above- neither the left tackle, nor the right guard are asked to handle a standard block. Instead, the LT gets as deep as possible and handles whoever is sliding over. On most occasions this will be the weak side linebacker, but he can also assist with the middle linebacker if needed. The right guard can help with the DT, but also handle the MLB or a roving safety. In these roles it makes sense to have the most experienced, veteran linemen in these roles- which is natural for Jordan Gross and Geoff Hangartner.
Finally we have the running back- and in a traditional, I-form Power O this is a bread and butter play for Jonathan Stewart. In yesterday's look at the inverted veer option it was DeAngelo Williams who better fit the role of a speedy, twitch RB who could move laterally on the sweep. In this play you need a no-hesitation, powerful North-South runner. Provided the linemen can get decent blocks there is almost no way a defense can stuff a play with Tolbert and Silatolu lead blocking for Stewart on the power O.
Unless you're Rob Chudzinski, or have a copy of the Panthers' playbook in your hand all of this is just spit-balling. However, it's a somewhat educated guess based on the moves we've seen the Panthers make. In order to allow the Power O to work Carolina needed two things- a solid fullback, and an athletic left guard. Both of these positions were solidified in free agency and the draft. This is a blocking scheme that was used in Cleveland, and again in San Diego- so it's easily inside the scope of this staff's history to continue the trend. It's a far cry from the boring, zone blocking schemes we saw from Jeff Davidson, and offers an easy way to add different looks to the offense. We'll get a true sense for the offensive fronts in Spartanburg.