"Swiss Army Knife" is the most overused cliche in the NFL. It's a trope that's somehow more annoying than the word "moxie" and the use of the word "sky" as a verb. It's an evocative term, though, meant to denote a player who fits multiple modes of play and can be flexed into various positions (our own Joe Webb is an example, as backup quarterback, special teams coverage guy, wide receiver, and kick returner.)
Another example is Kurt Coleman.
Over the summer I highlighted trending changes in personnel archetypes at the nickel back position, noting that the rise of plesiosaur-sized football players in the slot receiver position (e.g. Gronkowski) has demanded larger, more physical players at nickel. Many teams have responded by looking for more athletic safeties, guys who can either be flexed onto the field as third safeties (the "Buffalo Nickel") or to match up against larger, more athletic players in man coverage with regular two-safety packages. Dave Gettleman recognized this in the offseason and, trying to improve a pass defense ranked outside the top ten, brought in Coleman, a 6th-year veteran who played with Philadelphia but lost his job with the departure of Andy Reid (new defensive coordinator Bill Davis declined to resign him when retooling the 3-4 scheme.)
At Carolina he quickly beat out Tre Boston for the starting job at free safety, proving significantly better in pass coverage. A free safety who's lethal in run defense is a huge advantage for defensive backfields, and that's precisely why he's so valuable. Coleman's versatility gives McDermott the ability to play him in multiple roles. This makes him instrumental in disguising coverages. A prime example is the first quarter play against the Buccaneers last week that ended in a Josh Norman interception return for a touchdown. Here Tampa Bay lines up with a 3WR 1TE set. The Panthers are in the nickel defense. Kurt Coleman is the free safety, highlighted near the bottom of the field.

As Jameis Winston makes his pre-snap reads, Kurt Coleman moves down close to the line of scrimmage:

When the free safety drops into the box - usually that's an assignment for the strong safety, in run support - it's often an indication that the defense is in man coverage. Coleman's presence near the linebackers indicates his assignment is the running back, leaving Tillman on an island against Mike Evans. This could mean either Klein or Davis are blitzing or spying, or Klein's man is Louis Murphy, lined up directly across from the right guard.
Let's look at the play call:

As you can see above, Mike Evans - at the bottom of your screen - is running a slant. At the top of your screen Vincent Jackson is running an inside hitch, TE Brandon Myers an out route, and Louis Murphy is running up the seam on a deep post. This play design looks like it will be get several guys open if this is man coverage, since Murphy is a speedster and can easily run past Harper even if Davis is bracketing him.
But notice how Coleman backpedals right before the snap. He's dropping into coverage. He may be staying inside that slant. Possibly recognizing this, Jameis Winston never even looks his way. Look at the right side of the field, where Winston immediately turns:

If this is man coverage - and Winston probably thinks it is - then Jackson takes Norman out of the play, and Murphy takes Klein out of the play. This leaves Brandon Myers with inside leverage on the nickel, Benwikere. Myers will run into a zone cleared out by the receivers. With an easy first down in mind, Winston targets Myers.

THEY'RE IN ZONE! Kurt Coleman was just pretending to cover the back! Brandon Myers is in Josh Norman's zone! Josh Norman sees him!

We all know how this ends.

There you have it. A critical turnover and scoring play against a division rival, made possible largely by Kurt Coleman's versatility as a safety. His ability to handle the responsibilities of a strong safety while actually playing free safety has allowed McDermott to move him around the field and confuse young players like Jameis Winston. Incidentally his presence given a marginal pass rush more time to get to the quarterback and helped keep offenses from isolating Roman Harper on plays. As the resident Swiss Army Knife, Kurt Coleman is a substantial piece of the puzzle, and one of the reasons the Carolina Panthers are 4-0.
A final note on defense. Good safety play is always better safety play when you've got a pass rush. A good pass rush is always a better pass rush when you have a actual animals on your defensive line. Can you tell the difference between these hungry lions and newcomer Ryan Delaire?




I sure can't. In a week and a half the Seahawks get to find out in person.
This week on the Huddle Podcast, Panthers rookie receiver Devin Funchess sits down in studio for an hour long discussion. 
Topics include: 
- Tampa Bay Game
- Cam Newton
- Ricky Proehl
- much much more 
Obviously, this is a must listen. 
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Who: Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Where: Tampa, Fl
When: 1:00
I will be tweeting from the field starting around 11am with photos and observations. Follow @CarolinaHuddle on twitter. 
Keys to Panthers Victory: 
- Tackling must improve over last week. 
- Keep Winston in the pocket and force him into mistakes. An interception or two will be the result. 
- Jared Allen must fill the void left by Charles Johnson. 
- Greg Olsen will need to continue to impress as he will be the only receiver on the field getting extra attention. 
Bucs - 17
Panthers - 20
I hereby am officially designating Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a trap game. 
Here are a few of the factors that went into making this official designation. 
- Record flooding in Charlotte a distraction, especially to the players with families. I know my thoughts will be at home, so will theirs. 
- Terrible officiating , as outlined here by our own PhillyB. Also, it appears Carolina is getting the worst of the worst, as far as officials go. 
- Tampa is not as bad as you think. They defeated a Saints team with Drew Brees in New Orleans in a much more convincing fashion than Carolina did at home without Drew Brees. 
- Division matchups are rarely anything but a dog fight for the Panthers to begin with. 
- Although AJ Klein is a good player, missing Luke Kuechly started to show itself last week. Tackling was very sloppy. 
In conclusion... 

Take this game against Tampa Bay lightly at your own risk. 
Hollywood director Francis Ford Cappola found out the hard way that no matter how much you plan, no matter how many details you consider, no matter how careful you are, sometimes things just go straight to hell. Cappola's masterpiece - 1979's Apocalypse Now - is widely considered the most disastrous production effort in all of cinema history. Marlon Brando showed up to the set surprisingly fat. Martin Sheen battled alcoholism and had a heart attack on the set. Monsoons blew into the set in the Philippines and wiped out million-dollar stages. Cappola's wife threatened to divorce him, his Italian filmmaker threatened to quit if they didn't fly in fresh pasta from Italy to Manila once a week, and no one could remember their lines. A live tiger walked onto the set. The army confiscated everyone's passports and filming permits for paying a local to drag cadavers onto the shooting location for added battle realism. Cappola reacted to these setbacks by going insane, throwing his Oscars out the window, binging on Filipino call girls, and telling the entire production crew he was going to commit suicide.
 I'm willing to bet a majority of Panthers fans had similar reactions Sunday to one of the most maddening, obstacle-laden wins in years.
Against all odds, Sunday's contest against the New Orleans Saints was a dogfight. There's a maxim in the NFL that suggests division games are always close no matter the disparity in talent or record, but that's just a popular misconception. Division opponents often clobber each other. With a 2-0 record and momentum building, it seemed Carolina was poised to put an early-season stake in the heart of the Saints. All signs pointed in the direction of a complete drubbing.
But no one thought to include atrocious officiating in the win/loss calculus. The following ten calls (or no-calls) stymied the team's efforts through four maddening quarters:
Tripping, #96, Q1 (Good call)Defensive Holding, #56, Q1 (Debatable)Offensive Holding, #88, Q1 (Bad Call)Offensive Pass Interference, #47, Q1 (Good Call)Ball spot for the Saints, Q2 (Bad Call by a full yard)Out of Bounds on Kickoff, #21, Q3 (Debatable)Tripping, #70, Q3 (Good Call)Illegal Use of Hands, #94, Q3 (Bad Call)Roughing the Passer, #99, Q3 (Bad Call)No Call on roughing the passer, Q4 (Bad Call) 
This is a pretty gruesome collection of penalties and no-calls. Anyone who sat through the game can attest to that. Some of them were Carolina's fault - Wes Horton can't blame anyone but Wes Horton for a silly tripping penalty - but fully half of the calls on the field were downright awful. Referees were making mistakes they shouldn't have been making at the professional level. The faulty spot and falsely-granted third-down conversion might've been the worst, in retrospect; the following sequence of shots shows the spot of the tackle, the officials' spotting of the ball, and the subsequent fix.

It really wasn't even close. Those are the kinds of calls that can blow games. And they didn't stop coming. Kony Ealy's phantom hands-to-the-face call had him livid, Kawann Short was clearly pushed into the quarterback, and of course there's the infamous no-call on the flagrant late hit against Cam Newton. It's a shame no one in the national media has shown coach's film of the actual hit, because it's flagrant. Here's a breakdown of the (very blurry) all-22 coach's film for you:

Pretty obvious. It didn't matter if Cam was out of the pocket because the ball was long gone and he was no longer considered a runner. Hochuli saw the entire thing from start to finish. We'll never know if he actually told Cam he was too young to get that call, but video evidence is clear: Ed Hochuli displayed wanton disregard for (or at least atrocious judgement in) the rules and regulations of the game.
But a beautiful thing happened on Sunday. The Carolina Panthers of past years have repeatedly fulfilled a tired prophecy: lose unless every little thing goes right. Carolina fans are witnesses. It's been a common thread through the Rivera era. On this particular Sunday every little thing went wrong - but the team responded, in spades.
Greg Olsen's negated touchdown was followed by a Greg Olsen touchdown.Rivera's challenge of the horrible first-down spot forced the Saints to punt and resulted in a 52-yard pass to Greg Olsen on the first play from scrimmage.Teddy Williams's special teams blunder was answered by a clutch drive for Greg Olsen's second TD (aided by a savvy hurry-up to catch 12 Saints on the field.)Kony Ealy's ludicrous hands-to-the-face penalty was followed two plays later by a critical forced fumble and a Carolina field goal.The Panthers answered Hochuli's no-call by an 88-yard march for a touchdown and a 27-16 lead.And of course we all know the game more or less ended with Josh Norman's jaw-dropping interception in the end zone.
The 2015 Carolina Panthers are 3-0 not because they've done everything right, but because they've shown the resiliency to win even when everything goes wrong. Championship teams have the enviable quality of pulling out wins that should never have happened. The 2015 Carolina Panthers did that on Sunday.
Apocalypse Now transcended disaster and went on to win Academy Awards nominations, top honors at the Cannes, and recognition as one of the most iconic films of its era. With this newfound penchant for gutty wins the Panthers just may follow suit.
This week I ventured over to a few Bucs media sites and message boards and afterwards needed an emergency session with my therapist. Good gravy is it dismal in Tampa Bay these days. 
Here are a few of my favorite tidbits....
Bucs will have their hands full with Greg Olsen
Of course, some Bucs fans are predicting a victory...
Some are discussing the Panthers adding Jared Allen 
But overall, things are fairly depressing in Bucs country
Jared Allen made his Carolina Panthers practice debut today and was welcomed by the heat and humidity the south offers in September. 
Ron Rivera spent a good amount of time watching his new acquisition, and I have a feeling he was pretty impressed. 

Allen is a physical specimen, that much is clear. He should immediately have an impact for the Panthers this Sunday against the Bucs. 
What I was not expecting was how quickly Allen seems to have taken up the leadership and mentor role left vacant by Charles Johnson (now on IR). 

Allen was especially talkative and demonstrative with both Mario Addison and Wes Horton. Throughout practice, Allen would stop and chat or demonstrate a move of the hips or perhaps a hand movement. The little things that can turn an average defensive end into a good one. 

After the media portion of practice, the Panthers defensive coaching staff seemed more than pleased with their new weapon. 

I have been singing the praises of KK Short and Kyle Love combo for a couple of weeks now. Again, they balled out on Sunday. Dwan Edwards is having a very down year, and PFF seems to have taken notice. 
Bene Benwikere had a bit off an off game. As a nickel, he has many more responsibilities than a corner. Facing an unknown QB and unkown Payton game plan for that QB likely contributed to his grade. 
 Play CountsRatings Pos.#NameTotalRunRushCov.OverallRun DefensePass RushPass Cov.Penalty# of PenQB SkQB HtQB HuBPTksAssMTStops DRT99 Kawann Short *49193003.  2 11 1 DRT93 Kyle Love25101503. 11  2   LCB24 Josh Norman *71260451.    41 1 SLB54 Shaq Thompson *41123261.   4114 RCB31 Charles Tillman *69260431.    92 4 DLE95 Charles Johnson *35151910.7-  1      MLB56 A.J. Klein *63253350.11.0-0.2-0.80.11-0    8 16 DLT98 Star Lotulelei *49202900.10.4-   121 1 FS33 Tre Boston165011-    21   SS41 Roman Harper *5622034-0.7-    4 23 WLB58 Thomas Davis *4922027-1.0-0.10.0-1.00.10-0    6421 FS20 Kurt Coleman *7227342-1.1-0.7-0.2-0.30.10-0     21  DRE96 Wes Horton *12660-1.10.4-0.50.0-1.01-0         SCB25 Ben� Benwikere6824440-1.1-0.4-0.3-0.50.10-0    5 21 DRE97 Mario Addison327232-1.40.4-0.90.0-0.91-0  1 2  1 DRE94 Kony Ealy4218240-2.10.7-1.5-0.5-0.81-0  2 3113 DLT92 Dwan Edwards4313300-2.4-1.9-         0.53.8-0.4-0.7-2.25-0117150161026