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<!-- body { font:12px Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; color: #000; background-color: #EEF2FB; margin: 0px; } --> The Carolina Panthers limped to a 7-9 finish in 2018 largely due to franchise quarterback Cam Newton suffering from a shoulder injury that severely limited his ability to throw deep. The Panthers wisely—albeit a few weeks too late—shut him down for the final two games of the regular season. During those final two games , the Panthers cycled through three backup quarterbacks: Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen and Garrett Gilbert. Heinicke played in Week 16 against the Atlanta Falcons and suffered an elbow injury in the first half. While he toughed it out and finished the game, he was placed on injured reserve before the Panthers faced the New Orleans Saints in Week 17. For the season finale in New Orleans, Allen made his first career NFL start but was replaced by Gilbert in the second half after going down with a shoulder injury himself. Honestly , it’s amazing that Newton lasted as long as he did in 2018. The Panthers have had issues protecting their franchise quarterback since drafting him in 2011, but the situation heading into the offseason is the worst it’s been in recent memory.For reference, here’s the list of offensive tackles who spent time on the Panthers’ 53-man roster in 2018:Chris ClarkMatt Kalil (injured reserve)Taylor MotonMarshall NewhouseCorey Robinson (waived)Daryl Williams (injured reserve)While these lists are sufficient in quantity, they’re not so much in quality. The Panthers will only have three tackles on the roster when the league year starts in March , as Kalil and Moton are the only two players from the list above who will not be free agents in 2019. (The third tackle is Isaiah Battle, who signed a reserve future contract in December 2018 and will probably spend the majority of the 2019 season on the practice squad.) When you consider that Kalil spent the 2018 season on injured reserve and hasn’t lived up to expectations when he’s been healthy in the past, it’s not much of a stretch to say that the Panthers definitely need help protecting Newton on the edges. Taylor Moton is a very good right tackle, but he’s not so good that he can handle both left and right tackle duties himself. Even if he could Greg Olsen Jersey , the Panthers still need adequate depth because going into 2019 with only three bodies at the position is a bad idea. There are enough first round quality offensive tackles in this year’s draft class for the Panthers to take one at No. 16 overall without it being a tremendous reach. They may not get the No. 1 tackle in this year’s class, but at this point adding any of the top five tackles would be an improvement to a Panthers roster that hasn’t seen consistent quality at left tackle since Jordan Gross retired in 2014.If the Panthers are going to claim that Cam Newton is their franchise quarterback and build an offense around his dual-threat ability, and if they want to ensure that he is protected from further damaging his surgically repaired shoulder, then it’s essential that they provide him with adequate protection to give him time in the pocket to make plays. The refusal to address this clear and obvious need would be a grave mistake the Panthers simply cannot afford to make. The Carolina Panthers love running out of jumbo sets in short yardage situations. Whenever the ball gets close to the goal line Fozzy Whittaker Color Rush Jersey , Norv likes to send out the hog mollies to try to grind out those final yards. He should stop doing that.Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns provided the perfect juxtaposition of smash mouth football with creative play designs and their varying success in the red zone . The Panthers first run inside the five yard line came out of this formation. Wide receiver D.J. Moore is motioning around Cam Newton, which makes the Browns account for the possibility of a speed option run or a swing pass to Moore in the flat. Devin Funchess and Curtis Samuel are lined up outside. The Panthers run a read option to McCaffrey. Touchdown. Easy.The next time the Panthers go near the end zone, the coaching staff went to their bread and butter. On first and goal from the one, this was the formation:Cam Newton handed the ball to Alex Armah. No gain. So the Panthers did it again.This time McCaffrey got the call. He technically scored Rashaan Gaulden Jersey , but an argument could be made that he didn’t break the plane. Regardless, the Browns were inches away from stuffing yet another run from the one yard line. The Browns went with a different approach. Their first play inside the Panthers five yard line was this offensive masterpiece:Easy touchdown. They ran that same play later in the game on third and two, and it went for 51 yards (second Tweet). The Panthers need to rethink the way they approach short yardage situations. When they spread the Browns out and used motion and deception, they scored easily. So did the Browns. When the Panthers tried to go heavy and pound it in Thomas Davis Color Rush Jersey , they struggled. About 20% of Panthers rushing attempts this season have come with fewer than two wide receivers on the field. Those runs have averaged roughly one yard per carry and have been successful about a quarter of the time. Look no further than the screenshots above to see why they don’t work. When the Panthers line up in the I-formation and no wide receivers, it lets the defense put all eleven defenders within a five yard radius. There is absolutely no space to run. On top of that, with the quarterback being eliminated from the play after handing the ball off, there are only nine Panthers to block those eleven defenders. With two unblocked defenders and little mental processing required to diagnose the play , the defense has an easy stop. And it’s not a problem exclusive to the Panthers. The Panthers have a bevy of weapons that can stretch the field horizontally as well as vertically. They have a quarterback that is one of the best short yardage runners in the entire NFL. There is no reason for them to depend on an archaic brand of football to score touchdowns. It doesn’t work. Sunday’s game provided perfect examples of the dos and don’ts of running the ball near the goal line. If the Panthers want to recapture their red zone mojo, they need to steal a couple pages from the Browns playbook. Who would’ve ever thought they’d be reading those words?

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