Wow, we've all heard about Kelvin Benjamin during Preseason. And we've speculated about his impact on the field (for both himself, and fellow Panther receivers), especially after his spectacular preseason game catch Friday.
Well So has Mike Shula. He appears very excited about all the new Panther additions, and what they can do for his offense and various new formations and sets he can run this year that he couldn't necessarily run last year.
Of course, much of this excitement starts with rookie Kelvin Benjamin, then moves forward to others (Olsen, Cotchery, Dickson, Avant). Here's a few snippets from David Newton's article on Mike Shula excitement of the "New" Panther Offense
The Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator still is learning everything these new toys can do, but he likes what he's seen so far -- particularly from a certain 6-foot-5, 240-pound gadget after his spectacular catch in Friday night's 20-18 preseason loss to Buffalo.
Shula believes he has flexibility to have more fun with this new toys than his old ones, and that has the potential to make his offense better than a year ago.
"Yeah!" Shula said. "Heck yeah!"
Here are Newton and Shula again, after Newton writes about the 29th ranked Panther Passing offense and receivers in 2013
But it was obvious the offense needed an overhaul if the overall team was to improve. That's why Shula is excited about his new toys, particularly as it pertains to his new wide receivers -- rookie Kelvin Benjamin (the 6-5 toy), veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant -- and tight end Ed Dickson.
"It been great," Shula said. "They've come in with a workmanlike attitude, very serious, eager to prove themselves and earn a spot on the team. Competition is a beautiful thing. These guys get along good."
This next line here, says a mouthful many of us have already known.
Shula isn't dishing on his old toys. But wide receiver Steve Smith, who was released in March, is 35 and at the end of his career. He didn't always get along. Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon were adequate, but not irreplaceable.
Sometimes you have to tear things apart to move forward. That's what Carolina has done.
"We're starting over with guys that are knowledgeable, that are smart guys, that there's a reason why they've been in the league," Shula said. "They're new, but it's kind of been a positive thing."
Here, Shula speaks about Benjamin, the reclamation our beloved Two TE Set formations, and their respective impact on the Panther offense, and opposing defenses in 2014.
He's emerged as a No. 1 receiver that the 5-9 Smith admittedly wasn't anymore.
"He's such a big target, it has to give you more confidence as a quarterback, like a jump shooter with a basket that is twice as big," Shula said.
Dickson, a free agent pickup from Baltimore, also was a big addition. Putting him opposite Greg Olsen, the team's leading receiver in 2013, in a two-tight end set has opened possibilities that Shula didn't have last season.
Defenses will have to commit eight players to the box, which will prevent double-teams on receivers and free up the entire offense.
"It gives you flexibility," Shula said. "It makes you less predictable by personnel groupings. So if all of a sudden you come in with two tight ends, you're not necessarily going to run the ball, you're not necessarily going to be in single-back, you're not necessarily going to have two tight ends on the edge
"So now the defense can't just say, 'Oh, well, they're just going to play these formations, and out of these formations they're going to run just these plays.'"
Lastly, Shula's very excited about Cam Newton's sharpness and leadership, despite his ankle recovery:
At the core of Shula's excitement is Newton. The only thing sharper than his timing with receivers has been his leadership. Nobody has been more active in encouraging players who do well and motivating them when they need pushing.
"With all that there's a calmness and confidence," Shula said of the fourth-year quarterback. "He's always had that cool personality on the field. Now there's some added confidence with experience."
Old toys, new toys.
Shula has a lot more to play with now.
I loved how Shula discussed the impact and unpredictability of formations on the defense which KB and two TE sets can bring. This is something Panther fans have longed for from their OC the past year. I'm glad Shula sees what many of us see. Hopefully, he and Ramsdall will know how to properly utilize them, and Panther fans will see a return of both the big play offense (20+ yd plays), and Big sure handed possession receivers/TE's--of two seasons ago--moving the chains? I think/hope they will (do it, and we'll see it)!? It may even open up the struggling run game with space, and a less crowded LOS?
I know many of us have not been in love with Shula so far; granted. However, it appears Shula and Co, only worked with what they had last year (to great team success). So let's give them a chance in 2014 with a more versatile offense, particularly in the receivers and Tight Ends. Hopefully, one of the RB's shows up as well?
National Media, get ready for another Panther "surprise" in 2014.
Now only if they can find someone to run back Punts and Kick off returns adequately.