Offseason Playbook: Panthers

A look at Carolina's philosophy, team needs and a key free-agent move

Originally Published: March 6, 2013
By Gary Horton and Field Yates | ESPN Insider
Cam Newton Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsCam Newton and the Carolina Panthers hope to bounce back from a 7-9 season in 2012.

In a new offseason series, Insider takes an in-depth look at NFL teams before free agency begins March 12. What is each team's philosophy on offense and defense, biggest needs and one player who could make for an ideal signing in free agency?

Team philosophies

Offense -- Although this team wants to be labeled as a physical run-oriented offense, there is a lot of creativity here with many moving parts and flexibility. This is primarily a zone-blocking offensive line with pretty good athleticism. Not only can the Panthers run inside, they can also run a lot of wide stretch plays. Once you add quarterback Cam Newton's ability to run, there are a lot of options here. The Panthers will also run a three-back "bone" formation to give them a real power look. They can always pull out Newton's read-option, although look for them to use less option and more downhill runs with a strong play-action package in 2013.

They will take some vertical shots to force defenses to play honest and create more room for the run game. Newton throws a really nice deep ball, most of the time to Steve Smith. They love to move around tight end Greg Olsen to get the right matchup and he is excellent in the middle of the field and in the red zone. Newton is also very effective there and loves to run the quarterback draw.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.
Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.