Panthers 21. Bills 0. A Black&Blue Game Review.

General Observations:

– David Tepper has turned out to be such a cartoon villain version of an NFL owner that it’s actually entertaining. It’s like the Panthers are owned by The Penguin. His accidental, on-air admission of having a burner twitter account is hilarious, and you have to love him indirectly calling the Carolina fanbase sewage, or whatever the exact phrasing was. I guess the fact that he was too cheap to fully guarantee a contract for a serial predator to become the face of the franchise lets him off the hook for his utterly embarrassing failure in Rock Hill. However, I do appreciate the magnanimity of allowing one, designated Keep Pounding game this season. You know, that thing that used to be every single home game? That thing that used to be the entire ethos of Carolina Panther football? Yeah, we get that back for one game this year, so that’s cool.

Also, props on that ugly, cheap field turf that keeps getting everyone injured.

– McAdoo’s offense is pretty much as advertised. Heavy use of 11 personnel, with no real scheme or strategy behind it. It’s just putting your best athletes on the field and hoping for the best. A lot of PAFTSO (play action for the sake of) that you see from the people who try to rip off McVay or Shanahan. It actually reminds me a bit of the Shula years, in the sense that Shula was just going to do what Cam does best and hope it works out, and there ends up being a lot of meat left of the bone.

To be fair, 11 personnel is the best base for this team. This is a loaded WR corps. Shi Smith has looked awesome, and I’m not sure if he’ll even be higher than 5th on the depth chart. If you get the added bonus of McCaffrey healthy for more than two or three games, then maybe the players can overcome coaching just by being better than the opponent.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the personnel usage against Buffalo:

  1. – If they don’t see him as an inline player, I don’t get why Tremble isn’t the designated fullback when they want to go 21 personnel. I actually like Ricci, but not as a fucking fullback. Tremble is a freight train of a blocker who can also legitimately carry the rock.- The defense looks set up to prevent explosive plays, which I like. But the weaknesses of this approach have to be acknowledged. Myles Hartsfield as the nickle means you’re going to give up a ton of completions in that area of the field. And I get it, honestly. You want a “big nickle” in this scheme who understands leverage and can fit the run. He’s solid in that role, but if teams want to put their #1 WR in the slot – which is becoming a league trend, by the way – then I hope Snow has a different plan for that.Also, having YGM in that hybrid end/tackle spot is going to invite chunk running plays off that side. Buffalo’s two biggest runs of the night came when #97 reduced down inside. You’re inviting the run when you do that. Again, I get it. This thing is set up to stop big plays, especially against the pass, but you must know your weaknesses going in.Speaking of big plays, this brings us to what I had originally branded as The Gulf Coast Wives Plan, but I’ve since changed it (correctly) to Super Bowl Champion Brian Billick’s Toxic Differential. Why? Well, for two reasons. For one, I don’t want it to just be applicable to NFC South opponents. I want to win the whole god damn thing, honestly. If you don’t want to win the whole god damn thing, go be Charlotte 49ers fan or whatever. But, perhaps more importantly, I believe it’s in good taste to give other people credit for their work. Brian Billick has long been a proponent of tracking turnovers (including turnovers on down) and explosive plays (20+ yards) as a formula for success, and in the era of 4th down gambles and big plays, I believe there’s never been a better time to release the Billick.So without further ado:

    There you have it. Success.Now some people have become ultra-scientific about explosive play measurements, insisting on segregating runs and passes. I’ve seen some people call a 12 yard run explosive. I’ve seen some people point out that multiple 17 yard plays don’t count, so the stat can be misleading. Look, it’s arbitrary no matter how you track it. The logic on 20+ is that it’s two first downs in one play, and I think that’s still a perfectly fine way to track explosives.Some weeks you’ll get a bunch of 19 yard plays that won’t count. That’s just life, and you move on.

    A few other things:

    Any Next Luvu’s?I guess it’s Brandon Smith, who’s been terrific to the point where I think he’ll get meaningful, regular season snaps in 2022. Granted, he was a 4th round pick whom the team actually traded up for, but I (and many people) trashed that decision and now I’m happy to eat shit in retrospect if it means the team has added another defensive weapon. Snow using him as sort of a Jack LB – effectively, he’s Luvu’s direct backup right now – is probably the best way to use him given that his worst plays in college came when Penn State asked him to be a conventional, stack LB. It looks like the team knew what they were doing when the drafted him, had a plan from the start, so big props to FittereRhule there.Also, Tae Hayes probably made the team, although he might be relegated to backup outside corner in this system given his size limitations. It’s also very interesting to monitor who gets “starting slots” on special teams in what was basically the dress rehearsal preseason game, so guys like Stephon Sullivan and Darryl Johnson ostensibly have a leg up on the 53.- Icky is what I expected. He’ll struggle against elite edge rushers, so we’ll need to gameplan around that, but there’s only like 10 of those guys in the entire NFL and some of them line up on the opposite side of the field. The benefit of Icky is that he’ll erase the generic, player X types like Shaq Lawson, and that’s most of what you face in this league. People may be underestimating what an upgrade this is over recent Carolina Panther left tackles, who made of habit of giving the Shaq Lawson’s of the world big free agent contracts. Also, he just motherfucks people in the running game. He just does, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Center is a problem with Elflein starting and Bozeman looking kinda shitty, but I’m excited about the offensive line as a whole. Christiansen looks legit at LG. Corbett motherfucks. Moton motherfucks. I’m excited to see what this line could do for Mayfield and this skill position crew, even if the offensive coaching staff is a giant Monkeypox orgy.- This isn’t related to the Panthers, but I might be one of the five people outside of Massachusetts who think Buffalo might disappoint this year. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’ll be good – probably even very good – but very good might not cut it in the loaded AFC. They weren’t even awesome in 2021. At one point, this team was 7-6 and had a struggle on their hands against the collapsing, kicker-less Panthers. And we may be downplaying the loss of Brian Daboll, and how much he meant to Josh Allen. Meanwhile, the Dolphins have won 8 of their last 9 games, and added the cheat code of Tyreek Hill. Buffalo needs to not fall asleep against lesser opponents this year.

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