Whole Nine Sports

The Carolina Panthers New Look Offense

Matt Rhule
Image created by the Carolina Panthers
Tyler Habursky
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Follow Whole Nine Sports @WholeNineSports

In the early stages of this off-season the Carolina Panthers have been very active and have generated a lot of attention to the organization. The biggest moves they’ve made consisted of firing Ron Rivera and replacing him with Matt Rhule. In my eyes, this is a positive move for the organization. Shortly after being hired, Rhule brought in his defensive coordinator at Baylor, Phil Snow. In addition to Snow, Rhule brought in Joe Brady to be Carolina’s next offensive coordinator, who took the college football world by storm in 2019. Brady played a big role in the success that Joe Burrow and the LSU offense had. In combination with offensive coordinator, Steve Ensminger, they made college football history and won the National Championship. Both added their own wrinkles to the offense that Brady brought over from both his time in New Orleans working with Sean Payton and his time at Penn State with Joe Moorhead. There is some debate on who called plays, but both deserve credit for the success. Days after the big win, Brady went from being the LSU passing coordinator to becoming the Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator at only 30 years old. After his playing and coaching days at William and Mary, being a grad assistant at Penn State, and coaching for New Orleans and LSU, Brady is set up very well at such a young age to have major success as a coach. He’s adopted a lot of different offensive concepts along the way that will carry over to the Panthers offense. Let’s take a look at some of the things Joe Brady does as a play caller.

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Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey
Photo by Streeter Lecka, Getty Images

Defensive minded coaches hate it, but the RPO is not going away. Most offenses across the country utilize Run-Pass Options in one way or another. The league was taken by storm at the beginning of the decade when RGIII and others really brought back the read option because it neutralized a player on defense. That’s essentially what the RPO does, you just don’t need an extremely mobile Quarterback to do it. Until the league gets tougher on calling penalties on illegal lineman downfield, the RPO will be around for a while. Brady was lucky enough to have a great group of skill players at LSU with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Thad Moss, Terrance Marshall, oh and Joe Burrow. In this example, they use push motion with the back to set up a screen to the right with 3 blockers in front. Once he checks it’s no there then he goes to the QB Draw and right before he crosses the line of scrimmage, he throws the slant on the backside based on the corner’s leverage and the safety coming up.


Joe Brady
Photo by David T. Foster III, The Charlotte Observer via AP

One of the staples of Joe Brady’s run game is duo. Duo can be ran from the shotgun or under center. What the word “duo” refers to is that there are 2 double teams on defensive lineman where the play is supposed to attack. Ideally, this leaves a 1 on 1 with the linebacker and the running back. If the linebacker is aggressive and attacks the hole, then the back should bounce the play outside. If the backer is conservative, then the ball carrier should hit the hole at full speed. This is why it’s important for Brady to have a Running back who makes fast reads and is quick. Carolina has that in Christian McCaffrey, and he will be able to thrive in this offense.

Empty Sets

DJ Moore
Photo by the Carolina Panthers

Joe Brady’s offense is built around getting playmakers in space. There is no better way to do that then utilizing 5 receivers in your offense. LSU went 5 wide a lot and motioned out the back to do so. They were able to do this because their backs were good pass catchers and luckily for Brady, he has the best pass catching back in the world at his disposal. With DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel also already rostered in Carolina, Brady will come in and already have guys at the receiver position who are very athletic and great in space. In the following play, LSU successfully runs the popular slot fade. In this play, there is a slot fade on each side of the ball. They have a slant set up underneath and a stick route from Moss. The running back on the right has a hitch in order to give Burrow a HiLo read on the right if it is zone. Because they are in empty with the back motioned out it is generally pretty easy to tell this is man coverage. In that case, with no help over top, Burrow knew to give his guy a chance here and it was a great play by Justin Jefferson. Due to the use of a lot of different receivers in the offense I could see Carolina drafting a wideout in the middle rounds of the draft that is also good in space. Along with this slot fade, the offense gets vertical in a lot of other ways including fake rub routes that confuse corners and safeties causing them to switch prematurely. My one concern with this part of his offense is that to go 5 wide you need to be able to get a lot of time to throw and let’s just say Carolina isn’t the best when it comes to giving the Quarterback time to throw.

Compressed Sets

Christian McCaffrey
Photo by Jeff Siner, The Charlotte Observer

Compressed sets are used for so many offenses, there is nothing special about them except for everyone is condensed. This makes it so that coverage defenders can get lost in the shuffle and “picked” at times. The con to this is that it is a lot easier for defensive coordinators to send blitzes because they are just naturally disguised. These formations are a staple to Joe Moorhead’s offense that he had a lot of success with at Penn State and Mississippi State. I’m sure he’ll be looking to bring them to Eugene this year as well since he is now the OC for Oregon. In the following play, LSU essentially runs a flood concept. Now you may think of the flood concept as a fade, deep out, and a flat. That is a flood concept but the idea behind flood is that you get 3 receivers to attack 2 zone defenders and make one wrong. Here it is just reversed. The left WR runs a deep post and takes coverage with him while the TE runs a flat. This opened it up for running back, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, to run a corner from the backfield and get a mismatch on the linebacker. You don’t see this type of concept all that often, but I’m all for getting the RB vertical and letting him make a play. Also, a shout out to Coach Dan Casey for posting the great content!

Other Concepts

Matt Rhule
Photo by Jim Dedmon, USA TODAY Sports

Of course, there are more formations and plays that go along with the ones I showed, but those are a lot of the ones that you will see most often. I’m sure he’ll also throw in a lot more too and will get some from Matt Rhule. In addition to the plays I already highlighted, LSU made a lot of money off of vertical concepts like, dagger. It is shown here, and the goal is to carry defenders deep to open up space in the middle of the field for an outside receiver to knife into. They execute it perfectly here early on in the season.