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Saca312

An Article on Christian McCaffrey, Shula's Ineptitude, and whether he can have a Todd Gurley-esque jump

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Decent write-up on McCaffrey. Not mine. Have a look:

https://www.patreon.com/posts/on-christian-20528714

Todd Gurley's 3.2 yards per attempt in 2016 didn't represent the quality of his performances throughout that season. Gurley played in a Jeff Fisher offense that asked too much of its limited linemen while relying heavily on a handful of trick plays that opposing defenses could anticipate and diagnose instantly.

In 2017, Gurley didn't have the best situation for a running back, but it wasn't far off it. Adding Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan improved the offensive line and Sean McVay's scheme was diverse and creative rather than predictable and directionless. 

Taking Gurley from the worst imaginable situation for a running back and moving him into an above-average situation allowed him to prosper statistically.

Christian McCaffrey is hoping to follow that path.

During his rookie season, McCaffrey averaged a measly 3.7 yards per rush on only 117 regular season carries. He was hugely valuable as a receiver but Mike Shula had no idea how to set him up for success. Shula, the now former offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, ran an offense that was very similar to Fisher's.

The foundation of the Panthers running game was tight formations, extra blockers and extra movement. Shula purposely brought defenders close to the ball and shrunk the field. From those formations, he asked his linemen to execute traps with aggressive lateral movements, he asked them to pull across the formation to be lead blockers in space and he asked them to execute multiple phase blocks such as executing a double team before peeling off the first defender to locate and engage a linebacker in space as a key blocker.

When you aren't athletic or technically refined, those are difficult assignments.

By giving their offensive linemen difficult assignments in key parts of the play design, the Panthers maximized the impact of their linemen and minimized the impact of their running back and quarterback. For the running back to find space on a designed run, six and seven blockers had to perfectly execute their assignments, often against stacked boxes.

Instead of relying on post-snap execution to create space, the Panthers should have stretched the field horizontally with their alignment at the snap. When you play with three and four receivers on the field and your quarterback in shotgun, you can take defenders out of designed runs by forcing them to respect option passes outside.

Extra receivers outside instead of tight ends trying to block defensive ends one-on-one would naturally create space. Incorporating the quarterback into the design of each run would switch the numbers advantage from the defense's favor into the offense's favor (they could leave one defender unblocked while the quarterback executed a "read" look during the handoff).

Shula never did that. Instead he focused on trying to get linemen incapable of executing tough assignments to execute tough assignments.

That meant that McCaffrey rarely ever had a chance of being productive.

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In this play, the Panthers use a read-option look as Newton holds the backside defender through an elongated handoff to McCaffrey. Instead of just zone blocking the defenders in the box, where the offense now has a numbers advantage, Shula's play design is too complex.

Tight end Greg Olsen must clamp down on the defensive end in front of him. He is unable to do that so the edge is disrupted. Meanwhile, the right guard advances downfield immediately, leaving his right tackle to execute a very difficult reach block in behind him.

But the worst part of this design is pulling center Ryan Kalil and left tackle Matt Kalil.

Neither player is proficient enough in space to be trusted as lead blockers. Matt Kalil expects #54 Lavonte David to just run to him once he's in space. He appears confused that David would consider running past his inside shoulder untouched. Matt's brother then finds himself in a state of confusion with nobody to block and David running right past him to McCaffrey.

McCaffrey breaks David's tackle attempt, but the play design and ineffective blocking means he still has nowhere to go.

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The Kalil brothers were regularly at fault for destroying play designs. Even when given simpler assignments, assignments that didn't ask them to pull and locate in space or reach block a defender, they were badly beaten. 

In the above gif the center has to jump outside of his defender but it's not an exceptionally difficult assignment. He is too easily put on skates and blown back into McCaffrey as he advances to the line of scrimmage. The left tackle was just overwhelmed by a much stronger defender.

There is literally nothing McCaffrey can do on plays such as this one.

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There were countless examples throughout the season of misdirection play designs not working because an il-equipped lineman was being asked to work in space or a skill position player was asked to make a key block against a defensive end/linebacker.

When you use these types of plays you're trying to spring your running back through a specific gap rather than giving him the opportunity to make a read and react to what happens in front of him. McCaffrey was drafted high in the first round because he was an explosive runner but also someone who could create within the design of his runs. Shula took that away from him with these designs.

The most egregious example of how Shula's offense misused McCaffrey came on triple-option plays.

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In Jonathan Stewart and McCaffrey, the Panthers had clearly-defined backs. Stewart was the big back. McCaffrey was the space back. Yet, when they ran triple-option designs, it was often McCaffrey who was sent up the middle while Stewart or one of the other slower backs on the roster moved towards the sideline.

This idea of deception was an epidemic for the Panthers offense.

Shula tried to outsmart the defense, doing the opposite of what they expected. A principle that can be useful to rely on, but it has to be done properly. There was no actual upside for the Panthers in using their running backs this way. There was no downside to swapping them.

Option plays aren't really misdirection plays. They react to what the defense does after the snap. So trying to make McCaffrey some kind of decoy or trying to confuse the defense by using him this way made no sense.

He was also often used as a decoy in the passing game, something that worked at times but not something where the individual drew the attention of the defense more than the action of the play fake. It made a lot more sense for McCaffrey to be the one catching the ball after the fake rather than the one executing the fake.

It's not 1965 anymore. You don't have to run counters and pull linemen to have an effective running game.

With the recent investments the Panthers made at the receiver positions (Curtis Samuel, D.J. Moore, Demiere Byrd and to a lesser extent Torrey Smith), the Panthers have enough speed to stretch defenses in spread out formations. As the Chiefs and Eagles have shown, you can maximize your offense by running out of "passing formations" while relying heavily on option play designs.

Not surprisingly, the Panthers looked much better running the ball when they left edge defenders unblocked and simplified the blocking assignments of their linemen.

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On this long, untouched run against the New York Jets, the only blocker who makes a significant movement before engaging a defender is the tight end. His movement is more about moving the inside linebacker out of the running lane than it is about him engaging a defender on the backside.

What the tight end ultimately does to his assigned defender is irrelevant. The Panthers created an advantage with the style of the play design and McCaffrey took advantage of the space he was afforded.

He even showed a little shuffle as he crossed the line of scrimmage to force the engaged defender in front of him to stay blocked.

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On this play, there are two unblocked defenders coming from wider alignments on either side of the field. The Panthers right tackle aggressively clasps down inside with his tight end in tow. Critically, the tight end has a leverage advantage on the defensive end in this alignment so he is able to seal the edge, unlike in previous plays.

This gives McCaffrey a clear route to the second level of the defense.

In Norv Turner, the Panthers have hired a better offensive coordinator than Mike Shula. Maybe. Turner's last job was very inconsistent. When he was forced to use option play designs and spread the field with Sam Bradford as his starting quarterback early in the year, his offense flourished. Once Bradford had time with Turner, the offensive coordinator came out of the bye week and reverted back to his preferred offense.

His preferred offense is fairly similar to Shula's. He wants to use tight formations, extra tight ends, different styles of run designs. He is going to ask his linemen to make blocks they're not capable of making. Turner wants Adrian Peterson to be his running back, someone who just wants to take the ball and run hard at a specific area of the field.

But when he's been forced to be more creative he has run very impressive offenses. That spell with Bradford was excellent. He also excelled when he was forced to work with Teddy Bridgewater after Peterson's suspension in 2015. With Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, Turner spread the field to create one of the most efficient running games in the league behind a bad offensive line.

All of this is to say that how McCaffrey runs the ball will matter just as much as how often he runs it.

When Turner recently said that it was realistic for McCaffrey to have between 25 and 30 touches per game, it was a positive sign. McCaffrey only had 12.3 touches per game last season. Nowhere near enough. If he can get anywhere near 20 and if those touches come on play designs that give him more creative freedom, he will be a productive back.

Turner quickly resigned from the Vikings after changing the offense back to the style that he preferred. He then took a year out of football.

At 66 years of age, with an abundance of success in football in his past, it's hard to expect Turner to change his ways. But it's possible. The league adapts and so have other coaches over recent years. Pat Shurmur, who replaced Turner in Minnesota, showed off growth as he worked his way into the Giants head coach position after a year as the coordinator in Minnesota.

Even if Turner does give McCaffrey 20+ touches a game and even if he does change the style of the play calling, it's still unreasonable to expect McCaffrey to have a Gurley-like jump in his production.

The Panthers haven't added an Andrew Whitworth or John Sullivan to their offensive line. They also don't have young, developing starters who can take big leaps forward like the Rams did. They're stuck with the Kalil brothers acting as anchors on play designs and recently lost starting right tackle Daryl Williams to injury.

Outside of Trai Turner, there is little to be excited about on the Panthers offensive line. And so expectations for the Panthers running game(/offense) should remain muted.

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Cian has always been higher on the Panthers than most, and one of Cam's biggest defenders as far as accuracy goes.  He essentially used Steph Curry and Deandre Jordan as examples to say nothing was wrong with Cam's accuracy and how completion percentage is smoke and mirrors.

 

Article about CMC was originally behind a paywall btw, so hopefully he doesn't magically find this thread. 

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17 minutes ago, CarolinaNCSU said:

Article about CMC was originally behind a paywall btw, so hopefully he doesn't magically find this thread. 

Well currently it's open to the public on his Patreon now so it's no longer behind a paywall.

 

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CMC is our starting RB and will be one of the best offensive players in the NFL this year.  

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25 minutes ago, GoobyPls said:

No where near as talented as Gurley.

Better college player than Gurley yet to be seen as a pro. They are obviously both talented 

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I think expecting a huge jump for him, considering the losses on the Oline is a bit unfair to him to begin with. It's not like Gurley only changed OCoordinators. He had an influx of talent on the oline as well. The Panthers have gotten worse at oline this offseason.

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There were countless examples throughout the season of misdirection play designs not working because an il-equipped lineman was being asked to work in space or a skill position player was asked to make a key block against a defensive end/linebacker.

This.

This idea of deception was an epidemic for the Panthers offense.   Shula tried to outsmart the defense, doing the opposite of what they expected.

OMG this.  Shula would do something stupid because no one would expect it.

It made a lot more sense for McCaffrey to be the one catching the ball after the fake rather than the one executing the fake.

Duuhhhh.

In Norv Turner, the Panthers have hired a better offensive coordinator than Mike Shula. Maybe.

This is exactly where I am right now.

Turner's last job was very inconsistent. When he was forced to use option play designs and spread the field with Sam Bradford as his starting quarterback early in the year, his offense flourished. Once Bradford had time with Turner, the offensive coordinator came out of the bye week and reverted back to his preferred offense.

...At 66 years of age, with an abundance of success in football in his past, it's hard to expect Turner to change his ways. But it's possible.

Please please make it so....

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37 minutes ago, saints4lifeagain said:

I think expecting a huge jump for him, considering the losses on the Oline is a bit unfair to him to begin with. It's not like Gurley only changed OCoordinators. He had an influx of talent on the oline as well. The Panthers have gotten worse at oline this offseason.

I think Moton will actually be as good or better. Norwell is a clear loss, but you are missing the huge upgrades at WR and at TE2. Don’t forget Olsen too. It’s not a coincidence that he had 100+ in the playoffs and we had over 300 passing yards. He missed both regular season games and we had just over 300 yards combined in both games.

A new OC and much better receivers is going to more than compensate for the downgrade at LG.

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Quote

Shula's Ineptitude

I've heard these terms before.

Inside my head.

Frequently.

I wonder why Ron "I Would Have Taken A Shot Too" Rivera stuck with him for so many years?

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1 hour ago, GoobyPls said:

No where near as talented as Gurley.

At his best and used appropriately, CMC will produce more total yards from scrimmage and more TDs than Gurley. 

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I think expecting CMC to at least be Tiki Barber when he fixed bis fumbling issues is fair since he was the 8th overall pick and is our number 2 receiver. 

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