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MayorWest13

Curtis Samuel Catching technique

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Is there some more substantial information about this guys technique outside of a single still shot? 

Has there been some previous, documented concerns over his technique?

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23 minutes ago, HASHBROWN3 said:

Is there some more substantial information about this guys technique outside of a single still shot? 

Has there been some previous, documented concerns over his technique?

Yes ^ 

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I really questioned what it was the Panthers were trying to accomplish in this draft. I mean, McCaffrey is an amazing talent, and so is Samuel, but do they really fit into what the Panthers have been running? and what does adding two RBs, who double as pass catchers do for you if don't address your awful OL?

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26 minutes ago, MayorWest13 said:

Yes ^ 

Perfect... Sounds like they blew it.  This nfl.com scouting report confirms all the negatives as well...

WEAKNESSES

 Plays with some hip tightness that make his play more linear than fluid. Needs to work on release against press. Could get hung up off the line and into his routes by athletic, press-cover slot men. Has unnatural hands that fight the throw. Will default to body catches. Didn't have as many "pro-style" touches as teams would like. Averaged just 5.5 yards at the catch point, and several carries came on jet sweeps and stretch plays from shotgun. Average ball-tracking and adjustments to poor throws. Wasn't asked to handle blocking responsibilities very often.

DRAFT PROJECTION

 Round 2

SOURCES TELL US

 "It's kind of like with Jalin Marshall last year. How do you use him? He's not a running back and his routes and hands really aren't that good. Marshall went undrafted. Samuel is a better athlete but they are about the same size and give you the same concerns with how to use them." -- East regional scout for AFC team

NFL COMPARISON

 Josh Huff

BOTTOM LINE

 Jack-of-all trades but master of none, Samuel showed an ability to gain yardage and create scoring opportunities in a variety of ways on a talented Buckeyes offense. However, NFL teams will want to slot him into a more defined role, which is most likely at receiver. He is still learning the position and has separation quickness to create open throwing lanes, but while he's sharpening his route work, he could find early reps as a kick returner.

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That's the same user who got all giddy when we drafted Samuel, so you definitely shouldn't be looking at that as some major.

Samuel's catching form has always been a question mark, but he's only had a role as a true receiver for only 2 years at OSU. He's really grown into it - as I'll show later on - but his catching form does need work. Learning to catch out of his frame, and limit his body catching does come to mind. Nevertheless, that really doesn't matter.

For those of you wishing we drafted another Ginn-like speed guy with catching issues, you're out of luck.

What the Panthers drafted was a reliable, speedy slot receiver who can play between the tackles. A versatile player who could be looking at dominating real soon.

In case you're curious about Curtis Samuel's reliability, he is. According to Brandt, Samuel posted 74 catches without a drop in 2016. CFB Film Room reports that Samuel has a career drop rate of 3.2% and OSU's most reliable receiver.

Mind you, OSU had probably one of the worst QB's in college. Had he at the least been average, Samuel may have not fallen to the second round.

If you're curious as to how deadly this kid will be, look below.

http://www.carolinahuddle.com/boards/topic/138049-panthers-draft-analysis-slot-wr-curtis-samuel-reliability-speed-and-a-match-up-nightmare-a-key-piece-in-the-panthers-evolution/

Breakdown

I'm pretty much evaluating him as a pure slot receiver. He can play inside and has showcased fantastic ability in running to the outside and in between tackles, but his main dish comes straight from his work in the slot. From watching him, he could legitimately be in contention as one of the best slot receivers from this draft class, and that's a serious deal. What was a common theme was how much he could've grown and literally broke out with 2000 yard seasons, but so much potential was washed away because of bad QB play.

Curtis Samuel is a pretty special player. He can act as a solid runner and a speedy, polished slot receiver. Samuel may not have the best catching technique as a wide receiver, but that doesn't matter. Samuel catches the ball his way, and he does not let go of it. When Samuel secures the ball, it's secured for good. He has the ability to take on collisions immediately after the catch and hold on to it for dear life.

GIF

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Samuel showcases the ability to take hard collisions right when he catches the ball and comes down as if it never fazed him at all. Right when a DB guns on him, he will have the ball secured and come down with it to the ground. You see WRs in the NFL who can't secure the ball as well as Samuel in situations like these, yet Samuel showcases ability that even some pros can't emulate.

This is a common theme in Samuel's repertoire. He will make a lot of solid catches in contact, and that's something you just can't teach for most WRs.

A common argument that people make is that Samuel "isn't a polished route runner." Sure, it's plausible to assume that, considering he only recently attained his role as a WR. It's fair to say he could be raw. However, further analysis reveals there may not be so much validity within this.

Curtis Samuel showcases some real nice traits as a route runner that I believe is very underrated. Part of that is most likely due to inept quarterback play, as a lot of targets he had were inaccurate or completely off the mark. This failure proved to be a hindrance in what Curtis Samuel could've become.

Nevertheless, understand Samuel is more of a route runner than people give him credit for. Samuel has many examples of showing polished footwork and jabs to create an advantage for himself. Samuel has an array of moves he utilizes to get himself separation and wide open. In the following example, Curtis Samuel shows off a nice slant:

GIF

The result was the Michigan corner being left in the dust as Samuel got free in the horizontal game. The pass was sadly wide left of Samuel, but this should not discredit any of Samuel's efforts.  The defender is left in the rear view mirror with Samuel likely getting an easy first down and then some had the completion been made.

Curtis Samuel can beat people with his moves and route running ability. In the following example, he goes against Jourdan Lewis - a very solid prospect - and leaves him in the dust. Samuel begins with a hesitation that stops the CB right in his tracks, then he does a good job of using his hands here to keep himself clean.

GIF

The QB overthrows yet again in another fine example of Samuel's good route work, but don't let that distract you. It happens all the time for the Buckeye, and I don't believe that'll happen with Cam much at all in any deep passing situation.

To top off these amazing traits, you see Curtis' burst to pull away. The subtle part about this is how there’s a nice inside release from Samuel, but he makes sure he “stacks” the DB and gets back on track. He knows what he’s doing as a receiver. Even further down the field, you can see him avoid contact.

ezgif-1-a3dd9045f7.gif.91e7b5ad71888756c6ee6304c8761a38.gif

This should’ve been a 40 yard TD, but yet again OSU's QB is about as JAG as it gets. He gets separation and slides past defenders like they were mere statues, and gets himself open. With a competent QB, that's a sure touchdown.

When you see Curtis Samuel against press coverage, he usually dominates. He will fight for the ball and win the match-ups. He will get physical when need to, and force defenders to respect his presence.

GIF

Curtis shows an efficient release. Later, you see his "stacking" ability, then pulling away for a touchdown. He beats the press coverage and comes away with gold. Samuel may not have commonly faced this type of coverage, but every time he has, he's dominated.

Now Curtis Samuel in the horizontal slot game is deadly - with emphasis on the deadly. Samuel is a match-up nightmare with his speed and ability to win, and he will leave you in the dust if you are not careful. If Samuel gets his way in the slot, it's all over for any defender.

ezgif-1-6b228c3e0e.gif.0a20b30616adbf91636525f0f0ae6b13.gif

You see, this is exactly the type of person Cam Newton needs. A slot receiver who can stretch the middle of the field, get separation, and burn corners to the endzone. That right there is absolutely critical for Cam Newton's success, and Samuel provides that option. His ability to stretch the field and work his way in the middle will give any defender a run for his money.

GIF

Again, put him in the slot, and he delivers. He will fly by defenders like they're nothing and get himself some easy touchdowns. He thrives in space, and exploits zone coverages on a common basis. Had his QB even been average, he could've been talked about in the mid first round to early first round as a prospect.

Now, there's a common misconception that Samuel drops a lot of passes. The answer to that simple question is that he doesn't whatsoever. In fact, he's arguably the most efficient 3rd down possession receiver and catcher on the Buckeye's offense. According to CFB film room, Samuel only had a drop rate of 3.2%. That's a very low and efficient amount and certainly an improvement over Ginn's catch rate.

However, Samuel does need to learn to catch out of his frame. He can occasionally mistime his jump and fail to recover the ball. This is an issue that you see in spurts in Samuel's game, and a primary reason why some dub him as a guy who drops passes. The Clemson game first comes to mind as a textbook example of where Samuel can improve his game:

GIF

These are the only instances he drops, but it is a teachable issue to fix. Most of the time, it isn't much of a problem, but even so this flaw exists. He will need some refining in that area, but there's still no doubt he'll be as productive as ever.

Conclusion

A very quick, versatile, and reliable slot receiver that Cam desperately needs. The ability to beat press, man, and zone coverages is evident in his game, and his talent as a route runner should not go unnoticed. He makes magic in space and showcases the ability to beat corners well with a variety of moves and jabs. Samuel utilizes his hands and arm a lot to gain separation and an advantage over the defender in most situations.

A one-year starter at Ohio State, Samuel moved to a hybrid H-back role as a sophomore and became the centerpiece of the Ohio State offense as a junior, separating himself as the most dangerous offensive weapon on the roster. He grew up modeling his game after Percy Harvin and filled a similar role in Meyer's offense, lining up in the backfield as a receiver - only player in Ohio State history to finish with 1,000+ yards rushing and 1,000+ yards receiving.

A natural ball-handler, Samuel is a balanced athlete with the explosive traits and natural acceleration to produce chunk plays in various roles. Samuel is ideally suited for a hybrid offensive position that highlights his instinctive run qualities as a rusher, but also his many route-running capabilities as a slot receiver.

His added value as a runner and returner makes this Ohio prospect even more intriguing. While I had not specifically addressed this area much due to the basic fact he's going to primarily be in the slot on the Panthers, he has the ability to really make defenders miss and enough flashes shown that he could honestly be a competent RB if he just chose that route only:

GIF

GIF

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TL;DR -  Curtis Samuel had a 3.2% drop rate. He's fast. He's a huge upgrade over Ginn. This isn't a big deal, and he's gonna be a stud.

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1 hour ago, hjerry said:

I really questioned what it was the Panthers were trying to accomplish in this draft. I mean, McCaffrey is an amazing talent, and so is Samuel, but do they really fit into what the Panthers have been running? and what does adding two RBs, who double as pass catchers do for you if don't address your awful OL?

So Taylor Moton - isn't addressing the o-line, and a high-upside possibility with Matt Kalil isn't trying to do something to the o-line?

Anyhow, as to how the Panthers will use them, it's rather simple: McCaffrey's the runner, Samuel's the slot receiver. Both can be interchangable to confuse defenses.

Team stacking the box against you? Great we just shifted McCaffrey out onto a LB covering him and you've got another LB covering Samuel.

Team playing dime? Great motion McCaffrey in the back field and have the defense adjust only to hit them with a play action of Samuel going deep (second fastest player in the draft) or just run it and watch McCaffrey juke the daylights out of some CB that has no business being on the field.

Want to confuse defenses even more? Run a jet sweep with McCaffrey and Samuel, and try and see if the defenses can guess correctly.

Put McCaffrey on a wheel route with Samuel running option with Cam and watch defenses try and stop that.

Here's a nice, deeper look at how they completely change our offense (albeit a very, er, interesting one):

http://www.carolinahuddle.com/boards/topic/138208-a-source-i-am-close-to-who-is-sorta-close-to-the-team-gave-me-some-insight-on-why-mccaffrey-and-samuel-were-a-perfect-combination-and-heavily-targeted-as-a-combo/

great christ am i drunk. a bunch of tens were buying me shots at burke st. and foothills but i turned them down to write this  post for you because of all the pointy elbows. my dude who knows a big dude who told me about captain munnerlyn well before anyone else picked it up told me about shula's plan to revolutionize the offense. here it is.

...basically it's obvious as fug. everyone here has called it philosophically: we're getting faster. that's clear. but shula, who's low key riding a hot seat with rivera (gettleman is ice cold and will happily hand select his own staff if rivera doesn't cut it) has demonstrated a desire to evolve much the way he did going into the 2015 season. ted ginn was a dinosaur and his speed was about to start seeping away, rendering him useless. KB is a chronic sandbagger and funchess has a branden lafell-esque ceiling, let's be honest. the latter two are about as fast as my grandma and she's dead.

shula recognized that seven-step drops for lumbering wide receivers are getting us in trouble, so he and gettleman put heads together and decided a proper scatback and a true deep threat wide receiver were the answer. why? because this:

IMG_1042.JPG

in this extra poo picture note that the presence of KB and funchess in a single wing scares no one, not even the atrocious saints secondary circa 2016. this is because the free safety can rove and cover back quarters and the strong safety is fast enough to drop back if the play is diagnosed as pass and cover his section of the field. this is ultimately because KB and funchess aren't fast enough to demand two high safeties.

adding samuel changes this. mccaffrey changes it even more. suddenly that strong safety has to move back to a normal position, two high, to respect the threat. envision if you will this play:

IMG_1043.PNG

no defensive assignments shown but you don't need them to see that safeties are pooping their pants. FS has to play high to account for samuel in the slot or outside. olsen demands the string safety. KB ad funch see consistent single coverage due to the inability of safeties to bracket.

and then there's mccaffrey. safeties can't cover him physically, and if they tried they'd break their ankles. carolina picking him opens up massive lanes in the backfield and flats if mccaffrey is being moved around properly.

And another one:

https://realsport101.com/news/sports/nfl/carolina-s-offense-is-now-impossible-to-defend

The Formations

Carolina may be thought of as a power run team, but they work mostly out of the shotgun, and often in a trips formation. In 2016 they ran it more frequently, and more successfully, out of shotgun than anything else. Same goes for passing. Three receivers, one back, one tight end, that’s how the Panthers like to operate on offense. The only problem is that can be very limiting in what you can do playcalling wise. There is only so much deception you can put into 11 personnel, especially when your running back is limited as a receiver.

Well now, there are no limitations…

The McCaffrey Factor

In Christian McCaffrey the Panthers have a well-documented star who can run the ball out of shotgun comfortably and run the kind of routes that leave linebackers on the floor clutching their ankles. And it gets worse for defenses, since he can do it from out wide as well. While Jonathan Stewart has had a 40+ catch season, that was all the way back in 2011. Since then he hasn’t averaged more than two catches a game in any single season. With McCaffrey they have a back who can line up next to Cam in the shotgun and be a legitimate run/catch option, to go along with their run/pass quarterback that is pretty deadly.

Combine that with McCaffrey’s ability to go in motion, line up in the slot and basically turn into Julian Edelman and you have someone who is going to torment defensive coordinators. There is only so much defenses can prepare for, and with a power run game, a full passing playbook, options and now McCaffrey’s range of skills… It’s overwhelming. And it gets worse.

Samuel’s X-Factor

Samuel was listed as a running back in Ohio State, but in 2016 he had 97 carries (at 7.9 yards per touch) and 74 catches (at 11.7 yards per touch). That sounds like more than your average running back, and like McCaffrey he can do it all over the field. Here he’s in the low slot, ruining a DB’s life with a stutter step and streaking away. Now he’s coming out of the backfield and just jogging past a linebacker on a wheel route. Samuel clocked a 4.31 40-yard time, and he uses it. He’s not as crisp a route-runner as McCaffrey, but he burns defenses that leave him isolated. He was listed as a wide receiver in the draft process, but he can line up in the backfield and run the ball.

So how the poo do you try and defend these two hybrid players while not letting Jonathan Stewart run you over or leaving Greg Olsen open?

It’s simple, you don’t. Mike Shula now has two chess pieces to throw at defenses, be it as matchup nightmares, decoys, or as traditional role players. He can torment teams with endless RB motions and force them to declare coverages by using McCaffrey. He can make the top pick a decoy and empty the box by moving him only to come back with Stewart, he can line Samuel up in the backfield and make linebackers defend the width of the field against a speedster. The options are almost-endless.

The NFC South is already one of the most competitive and entertaining divisions in the NFL, but with Carolina’s draft it just got a whole lot more intriguing and explosive.

 

 

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5 minutes ago, SamMills51 said:

So Taylor Moton - isn't addressing the o-line, and a high-upside possibility with Matt Kalil isn't trying to do something to the o-line?

Anyhow, as to how the Panthers will use them, it's rather simple: McCaffrey's the runner, Samuel's the slot receiver. Both can be interchangable to confuse defenses.

Team stacking the box against you? Great we just shifted McCaffrey out onto a LB covering him and you've got another LB covering Samuel.

Team playing dime? Great motion McCaffrey in the back field and have the defense adjust only to hit them with a play action of Samuel going deep (second fastest player in the draft) or just run it and watch McCaffrey juke the daylights out of some CB that has no business being on the field.

Want to confuse defenses even more? Run a jet sweep with McCaffrey and Samuel, and try and see if the defenses can guess correctly.

Put McCaffrey on a wheel route with Samuel running option with Cam and watch defenses try and stop that.

Good thing you guys don't have a QB able to take advantage of all that, assuming it comes to fruition. 

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Only as good as the QB. I will take the wait and see approach to Cam hitting small shifty WRs. That said I am more concerned w Samuel than McCaffrey TBO. Not sure he will even be as good as Reggie Bush was...and Reggie had a much better passer to work with.

Just glad they didn't get Fournette.

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Just now, Lornoth said:

Good thing you guys don't have a QB able to take advantage of all that, assuming it comes to fruition. 

A good point. It's a common argument that Cam couldn't possibly take advantage of these weapons, as is the common Cam-bashing that's been around since his Auburn days.

Nevertheless, here's another perspective on the issue. I'm on the side that Carolina is the PERFECT place for these guys to unleash their skills.

Matt Harmon and Matt Waldman recently talked about that very topic, and both believe they're perfect fits.

http://www.thebackyardbanter.com/fantasy-hipsters-podcast---episode-12-nfl-draft-rookie-fits-and-a-cast-iron-running-back-with-matt-waldman.html

A summary of the above I found somewhere recently:

To begin this segment, Matt Harmon begins asking a simple question to Matt Waldman: Is Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel a good fit with Carolina? Harmon mentions first that he has written an article on football guys concerning McCaffrey's fit on Carolina and why he thinks he fits. He talks about how all the naysayers ring out their cries: 

"Oh Cam Newton won't use him properly, 

"His ceiling is capped"

"He's not a fit"

He then asks for Matt Waldman's thoughts.

Waldman doesn't miss a beat. He replies simply:

Quote

"Dude I'm totally with you. I have McCaffrey as my number one player overall on my post draft board"

Waldman chuckles in delight. 

Jokingly, Harmon says they will end the podcast there. Waldman laughs, then proceeds to "drops the mic."

About Christian McCaffrey's Choice In Going To Stanford And Why Carolina Is Such A Good Fit

Waldman begins his case by mentioning McCaffrey's prior college: Stanford. He talks and praises Stanford's scheme, and how the Panthers run something very similar. He talks about how McCaffrey ran gap plays, pop, power plays, trap plays, counter plays, and a host of other plays the Panthers run. His enthusiasm about the fit is obvious. You could just see a huge, bright smile on Waldman's face as he talks about McCaffrey's fit.

The topic soon shifts to a possible reason for McCaffrey's choosing to go to Stanford. Waldman jokes that Ed McCaffrey probably pressured Christian to go to Stanford and "put up pinball numbers," knowing that Stanford's scheme will be most appealing for any NFL scout and coaches. Waldman puts emphasis on the idea that scouts want a "sure-thing" as a first rounder, and states Stanford allows talent evaluators to see a product ready to enter in any NFL offense.

Waldman then ends this particular subject by saying McCaffrey was successful, and solidified himself as a top 10 pick.

The Media: Typical "Cam Newton Hate" 

After talking about McCaffrey and Stanford, Waldman shifts to another perspective, and begins to bash the naysayers in the media about how McCaffrey would never fit with Carolina. He effectively says it's all a bunch of lazy excuses, and another baseless accusation relating to the common narrative that "Cam Newton Sucks" and "won't be able to make the adjustment."

Waldman shuts down the haters by saying a few simple statements:

Quote

[The media said...]

  • Cam Newton's not a good quarterback
  • Cam Newton only played one year at Auburn
  • Cam Newton didn't run a pro style offense
  • Cam Newton won't hang in the pocket
  • Cam Newton will never be a pro bowl player
  • Cam Newton will never take [The Panthers] to a Superbowl

Well, every step of the way, Cam Newton has proven them false.

Waldman reaffirms his belief that Cam Newton will prove everyone wrong again.

Christian McCaffrey's Play, Why He's Like Westbrook, And How He's A Bonafide Top 10 Pick

The topic hits a second gear and kicks off to a bit of McCaffrey analysis. Waldman begins by talking about how McCaffrey proved he was a top 10 bonafide pick, and how he could run through some arm tackles, knowledge in the use of functional power, and how much McCaffrey reminds Waldman of Brian Westbrook; the runningback who inspired Matt Waldman into scouting players his own way.

Waldman talks of Westbrook's great ability of running through the tackles and how successful he was. He talks about his amazing ability to be productive, even on the tail-end of his career. He brings up the time he filled in for Frank Gore, and how Westbrook was able to get 100+ yards against a stout Arizona defense.

He relates how similar McCaffrey is to Westbrook, and he's really optimistic about his future.

Curtis Samuel: A Lot Like Randall Cobb, And Why "Dave" [Mike] Shula Will Be Able To Use Him

 

Waldman begins by mentioning that Curtis Samuel's game is very reminiscent of Randall Cobb. He believes that Samuel could achieve a role similar to that, with very high upside. 

Then, he brings up a very interesting point: "Dave Shula" (Waldman messes up on Mike Shula's name. LOL) will be able to use Samuel.

Waldman begins the run down, on how "oh Dave [Mike] Shula will never be able to use him," and "Shula sucks" with the criticism that comes with it, and dismisses it all. He brings up an interesting case in how the Panthers have been operating with receivers who have never been complete in their game for quite a long time, with Kelvin Benjamin being the closest one as of the current team.

Waldman says Samuel has a ton of upside, and he could be a refined receiver really soon.

Afterwards, he breaks down on how the Panthers could use him in the slot and turn him into a dangerous weapon, making Cam's life a lot easier. Doing such will allow the offense to open up a lot of diverse, multiple looks to drive the defense to distracting before the snap. Waldman believes that Samuel will get 700-900 yards his rookie year, and possibly more, with upside to be a 1000-1300+ yard, double digit touchdown guy in about 2-4 years.

A whole lot of praise.

____

Matt Harmon goes in greater detail by looking in the numbers side, and how Cam Newton has never really had this opportunity and why he'll shine:

http://subscribers.footballguys.com/apps/article.php?article=sundaymorningcomingdown3

I'm buried in numbers on a regular basis. Whether it's from those I chart for Reception Perception, nuggets dug up from scouring game logs or even passed along from the NFL's Next Gen Stats tracking data, I'm not short on stats. Some of my co-workers even assigned me the mockingly authoritative "captain spreadsheet" nickname.  

However, I'm not a fan of all football stats. To be quite honest with you, there are more than few that I actively dislike, or find flat-out terrible and outright deceptive in the pursuit of understanding what matters on the football field. 

The statistics that I tend to gravitate toward as items that are consequential and descriptive of the reality of the game are those that can actually be well-explained in a typical football sense. This is why last offseason, when I read Brian Malone's discovery that running quarterbacks throw to their running backs less often than the average signal-caller, it made so much sense. It's rare that a runner out of the backfield is the primary read on a play call, more often they are a check down option and third or later in the progression. The running quarterback is less likely to hit that third or fourth progression before their instincts take over and they break the pocket to run. Therefore, running backs playing alongside a mobile passer are less likely to see as many targets as their counterparts teamed with traditional pocket players.  

Malone's findings backed up that intuitive "football-based" conclusion. From 2000 to 2015, among quarterbacks (10 total) with both 250 pass attempts and a run-pass ratio of at least 1:5, only pre-conversion Terrelle Pryor of the Oakland Raiders threw to his running backs at a rate above the 20.9% target share league average.  

When the objective statistics verify conclusions us as intuitive observers of the game of football could discern; that's when you really have something.

It is the same line of thinking displayed in Malone's conclusions that have some individuals, even a handful of incredibly bright minds, less than thrilled with universally-adored prospect Christian McCaffrey landing with the Carolina Panthers and their rushing-inclined franchise quarterback. Despite the fact that the Panthers ranked 8th in run play percentage last year and even 2nd overall in Cam Newton's 2015 MVP season, the thought is that Newton and company won't create the ecosystem to unlock McCaffrey's truly special skills as a pass-catcher.

Since that fear is indeed rooted in my criteria of passing not only the intuitive football sniff test but is also backed up by a strong statistical study, I get it. However, I'd argue that there is reason to believe that Newton and his team will, in fact, create the environment where McCaffrey can access his ceiling as both a true feature runner and a receiver. Coming to that conclusion does require a touch of imagination, but it also comes back to that same word Ron Rivera offered up at the close of 2016 to describe where his team needed to head in the coming years.

Evolve. It's what Rivera indicated needed to come next for both his now-veteran quarterback and the Panthers offense as a whole. Therein lies the rub; the running quarterback as a staple of an NFL offense is still relatively new. We're in a bit of uncharted territory with Newton as a mobile franchise quarterback as he heads into the second act of his pro career. 

Unlike what the Panthers now want from Newton, we often don't see running quarterbacks get the chance to evolve. Most of the quarterbacks from Malone's study since 2000 flamed out. Among the 10 quarterbacks in the group, only Newton, Russel Wilson and Tyrod Taylor, whose grip on his job seems tenuous, are slated to open 2017 as starters. Terrelle Pryor switched positions and Kordell Stewart struggled to find a steady home. Robert Griffin and Colin Kaepernick both remain unsigned after failing to sustain the early career momentum both enjoyed after hot starts. The Golden Calf of Bristol and Vince Young are out of the league after being cast aside by the organizations that drafted them despite their strong career win percentage. Mike Vick is the only one of the group to truly see his career out from start to finish, despite a significant off-field bump in the road. 

Due to the revelation that we are headed into somewhat uncharted career water for Cam Newton's second act, I'm not only inclined to believe Rivera's intentions for the team to evolve but also I'm willing to open myself up to the possibility that what has always been for Newton's approach will not always be what's to come for the almost 28-year old quarterback. Even better, some small historical precedent does exist for Rivera's evolutionary blueprint. 

Rank Player Year Age Tm G GS Att Yds Y/A TD Y/G Starting seasons (12+g)
1 Bobby Douglass 1972 25 CHI 14 14 141 968 6.87 8 69.1 2
2 Cam Newton 2015 26 CAR 16 16 132 636 4.82 10 39.8 6
3 Cam Newton 2012 23 CAR 16 16 127 741 5.83 8 46.3 6
4 Cam Newton 2011 22 CAR 16 16 126 706 5.6 14 44.1 6
5 Michael Vick 2006 26 ATL 16 16 123 1039 8.45 2 64.9 6
6 The Golden Calf of Bristol 2011 24 DEN 14 11 122 660 5.41 6 47.1 0
7 Robert Griffin 2012 22 WAS 15 15 120 815 6.79 7 54.3 2
8 Michael Vick 2004 24 ATL 15 15 120 902 7.52 3 60.1 6
9 Randall Cunningham 1990 27 PHI 16 16 118 942 7.98 5 58.9 7
10 Russell Wilson 2014 26 SEA 16 16 118 849 7.19 6 53.1 5
11 Michael Vick 2002 22 ATL 15 15 113 777 6.88 8 51.8 6
12 Cam Newton 2013 24 CAR 16 16 111 585 5.27 6 36.6 6
13 Daunte Culpepper 2002 25 MIN 16 16 106 609 5.75 10 38.1 4
14 Randall Cunningham 1989 26 PHI 16 16 104 621 5.97 4 38.8 7
15 Colin Kaepernick 2014 27 SFO 16 16 104 639 6.14 1 39.9 2
16 Tyrod Taylor 2015 26 BUF 14 14 104 568 5.46 4 40.6 2
17 Cam Newton 2014 25 CAR 14 14 103 539 5.23 5 38.5 6
18 Russell Wilson 2015 27 SEA 16 16 103 553 5.37 1 34.6 5
19 Michael Vick 2005 25 ATL 15 15 102 597 5.85 6 39.8 6
20 Steve McNair 1997 24 TEN 16 16 101 674 6.67 8 42.1 8
21 Michael Vick 2010 30 PHI 12 12 100 676 6.76 9 56.3 6

Since the league-merger, a quarterback has recorded 100 or more rush attempts in a season just 21 times. With only 10 total quarterbacks on the list, several players did it multiple times in their career. Of those signal callers, only five managed to achieve some level of career stability (defined as more than two seasons with 12-plus starts). That list includes two active players in Russel Wilson and Cam Newton. Mike Vick, Randall Cunningham and the late Steve McNair from years past round out the list.

Newton's early years have indeed played to the statics when it comes to running quarterbacks. Panthers backfield players haven't cracked 60 combined catches since his rookie year in 2011, when Jonathan Stewart snagged a career-high 47. Wilson's Seahawks never found much use for a pass-catching back, either. Of course, there is a chicken and egg discussion to have with both of these players since neither played with a weaponry receiving back, as DeAngelo Williams and Marshawn Lynch never recorded 50 catches at any point in their career. Yet, for this study, we'll just assume it's the cause of the running quarterback. 

Mike Vick showed some willingness to throw to his running backs at different points in his career. His backfield players eclipsed 70 catches with the Falcons in 2002 when Warrick Dunn was in his prime and pushed triple digits in 2010 during his magic season with LeSean McCoy and the Eagles. Otherwise, his backs fell under 60 combined catches. Randall Cunningham doesn't fit the mold quite as neatly, as his running backs were almost always featured in the passing game.

If you truly want a historical piece of evidence for a rushing-inclined quarterback evolving and backfield receptions trending up, your examples are Daunte Culpepper and Steve McNair. Granted, neither had the running prowess, usage or production of Newton, but their seasons with 12 or more starts still show a path for him to follow.

Year Age Tm G Rush Rush/G Cmp% Rate TD% RB rec.
2000 23 MIN 16 89 5.6 62.7 98 7 52
2002 25 MIN 16 106 6.6 60.7 75.3 3.3 64
2003 26 MIN 14 73 5.2 65 96.4 5.5 94
2004 27 MIN 16 88 5.5 69.2 110.9 7.1 106

Culpepper eclipsed 100 rushing attempts in a single season just once in 2002. His backfield players that year managed just 64 total catches. However, as Culpepper aged, throwing to his running backs increased as his rush attempts took a dip. It all came to a head in his Pro Bowl 2004 campaign. At 27 years old, Culpepper's rush attempts per game fell more than a full carry from the 6.6 he held in 2002. His running backs were a major receiving factor in that hyper-efficient season, as four Vikings backs (Onterrio Smith, Michael Bennett, Mewelde Moore and Moe Williams) all amassed more than 20 receptions. Culpepper's career began to sputter after that season due to injuries and he never again started 12 or more games. However, the early signs of evolution were there for the gifted Minnesota passer. 

We saw Steve McNair function for a longer stretch than Culpepper and a similar, albeit less dramatic, trajectory unfolded. 

Year Age Tm G Rush Rush/G Cmp% Rate TD% RB rec.
1997 24 TEN 16 101 6.3 52 70.4 3.4 37
1998 25 TEN 16 77 4.8 58.7 80.1 3 43
2000 27 TEN 16 72 4.5 62.6 83.2 3.8 67
2001 28 TEN 15 75 5 61.3 90.2 4.9 55
2002 29 TEN 16 82 5.1 61.2 84 4.5 63
2003 30 TEN 14 38 2.7 62.5 100.4 6 49
2005 32 TEN 14 32 2.3 61.3 82.4 3.4 62
2006 33 BAL 16 45 2.8 63 82.5 3.4 74

Indeed, during the one season where McNair cracked the triple digits in rush attempts his backfield players combined for just 37 catches. However, as his career went on, that number increased. His final two seasons with 12-plus starts saw his rushing skills nearly completely evaporate and his running backs became even bigger staples of the passing distribution. McNair's lone stable season in Baltimore saw him take off running 45 times but his backfield players handle over 70 catches. Despite playing with a true grinder in Jamal Lewis, McNair made use of ancillary backs like Musa Smith as receivers. The former Oilers top-five pick might be the best example of some sort of career second-act evolution for running quarterbacks.  

While recent examples of rushing quarterbacks do indeed show that they are less likely to target their running backs, revisiting the cases of Daunte Culpepper and Steve McNair show that a change in approach for these players is inevitable to survive at the NFL level. It's apparent that Ron Rivera and the Panthers know that time is now for Cam Newton, especially after a rough 2016 season where even the former No. 1 overall pick looked weary from the beating. The cases of those quarterbacks also show that passing to players out of the backfield can be a natural part of that evolution.  

Carolina sent a clear message in drafting Christian McCaffrey 8th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. Times are changing in Panther nation. A malaise offense that grew stale, slow and unsustainably volatile got an injection of speed and the makings of a matchup nightmare when Dave Gettleman opted for the Stanford product with his first pick. If you didn't believe it, he doubled down, as he's wont to do, at the 40th overall spot by taking another slasher with 4.3 speed in Curtis Samuel of Ohio State to play slot receiver.  

The Panthers offense of the last three years was largely based around some of the more high-degree of difficulty passes assigned to any starting quarterback in the NFL. Newton had to wait for slow-developing routes to come to fruition despite working with largely below average separators in Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. It resulted in Cam Newton throwing more passes into tight windows than any other quarterback in the NFL last season, per the NFL's Next Gen Stats tracking.  

Drafting McCaffrey wasn't just about securing the future at running back, it accomplished the goal of giving Newton a player who could flash open early in-route and provide him with easier completions. He signaled evolution and that what has been with Cam Newton will not always be. The Panthers clearly signaled intentions along with a handful of evolutionary indicators has me brightly optimistic about this pairing and Christian McCaffrey barreling through his destined to be special NFL career on way to unlocking his ceiling. 

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Posted (edited)

5 minutes ago, 1989Fan said:

Only as good as the QB. I will take the wait and see approach to Cam hitting small shifty WRs. That said I am more concerned w Samuel than McCaffrey TBO. Not sure he will even be as good as Reggie Bush was...and Reggie had a much better passer to work with.

Just glad they didn't get Fournette.

I'm glad we didn't get Fournette either. Believe it or not, Fournette would bust in our scheme. We don't run a power offense with a lead FB like we did in the Fox era anymore, as we're more a shotgun based scheme now. Cam would be terrible for Fournette's scheme, who demands downhill run plays from center. Fournette's very below average in that area, so him going to the Jaguars - who are switching to a power scheme for Fournette - was the best option for him to have success in the NFL.

Edited by SamMills51

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Posted (edited)

7 minutes ago, 1989Fan said:

Only as good as the QB. I will take the wait and see approach to Cam hitting small shifty WRs

Mmhmm...2011...Smitty...small shifty WR...

Ah must be nothing.

Edited by SamMills51

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2 minutes ago, SamMills51 said:

I'm glad we didn't get Fournette either. Believe it or not, Fournette would bust in our scheme. We don't run a power offense with a lead FB like we did in the Fox era anymore, as we're more a shotgun based scheme now. Cam would be terrible for Fournette's scheme, who demands downhill run plays from center. Fournette's very below average in that area, so him going to the Jaguars - who are switching to a power scheme for Fournette - was the best option for him to have success in the NFL.

Fournette really worried me in the read option. Not knowing which bruiser was coming worried me. Our defense has the speed to contend w CMac

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Just now, 1989Fan said:

Fournette really worried me in the read option. Not knowing which bruiser was coming worried me. Our defense has the speed to contend w CMac

Issue is the matchup issues. How do you cover Olsen, a healthy Kelvin Benjamin, Samuel, Cam/Stew, and CMC at the same time? Falcons probably best are suited to contend against this set, but still you're going to be leaving someone in an unfavorable matchup.

 

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1 minute ago, SamMills51 said:

Mmhmm...2011...Smitty...small shifty WR...

Ah must be nothing.

Two different players. Cam isn't a touch passer. Like I said if Samuel is running shallow crossing routes, let's see how accurate Cam is finding him and hitting him.

When Cam is throwing a fast ball for all of his passes, let's see how this guy holds on.

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