Matt Rhule should be sitting on a hot plate right now. The Panthers (1-3) have been one of the worst offenses in football through four weeks. Baker Mayfield passes have been batted down at the line constantly, and the throws that make it through are usually off-target.
There is zero creativity in this offense. Ben McAdoo has done nothing to establish the team’s strengths, failing consistently to get playmakers the ball in space. Here are stats to know from the Panthers’ first four games that make me believe a complete coaching rebuild is in order.
Baker is bad, but Matt Rhule is worse
Baker Mayfield has the third-worst passer rating in the league among qualified passers (75). He also has the second-worst completion percentage (54.7%) and averages only 186.8 yards per game. Baker’s been sacked on 8.59% of drop backs, the seventh highest in the league.
I’m not putting this all on Baker. Matt Rhule needs to put him in a position to make easier throws. He didn’t have OTAs with the team and the system around him is woefully inadequate, not to mention boring. What Baker does need to improve on is making faster decisions to get the ball out accurately to the team’s playmakers, because they have a lot of them.
Run blocking is good, USE IT
Despite ranking eighth in the league in adjusted line yards with 4.73, Carolina averages just 21.5 rushes per game (27th) and 4.5 yards per carry (14th). This means that the Panthers are creating rushing lanes but are failing to use them correctly or sufficiently often.
The offensive line has clearly improved in both run and pass protection, but the Panthers fail to run plays with enough movement to take the pressure off the line. Teams know Carolina can’t throw the ball, so they must run the ball more to set up the play-action, which is where Baker excels.
1st Down Failures
The Panthers rank 32nd in 1st down rushing attempts with 36, yet they are averaging 6.3 YPC on 1st down runs.
If it looks like a duck and it sounds like a duck and it moves like a duck… it’s a duck. Run the ball on 1st down. That is clearly the overwhelming strength of this offense. Use it.
3rd down failures
Carolina ranks dead last in third down conversion percentage with a measly 25.53%. This is a direct result of a failure to get yards on the early downs. The amount of 1st down passes being blocked at the line of scrimmage is laughable.
Rhule chooses to pass the ball too much on first down, he digs the offense into a hole on second when the defense is crowding the line, and then they can’t convert long third downs. This is a pattern that will continue unless Carolina adjusts its play calling and creativity.
Get DJ the ball
DJ Moore is the only receiver to have 1,200 yards from scrimmage in each of the past three seasons. This year, Moore has averaged 34.5 yards per game, which is half of his average from the last three years. He’s tallied just 13 catches on 29 targets for 138 yards and a score.
It’s laughable to think that Moore isn’t getting open. Catching less than 50% of his targets is a failure on McAdoo’s part. Moore is one of the best RAC receivers in football, so get him the ball in space, not down the field. This offense clearly needs to build their way up to the deep ball, and Moore can get immediate results with the ball in his hands until that aspect develops.
Baker’s play-action proclivity
In 2019, Mayfield’s passer rating was 36.8 points higher on play-action attempts, scoring 9 touchdowns to rank third in the league.
The Panthers need to get the run game going before they can be effective on play-action. Teams will key on the run if Carolina actually runs the ball, but it ranks 27th in rush attempts per game. Get McCaffrey going, and the play-action game will get Mayfield going on passes down the field.
Losing under Matt Rhule
Under Rhule, the Panthers are 1-26 in games where the opposing team scores at least 17 points.
This might be the most significant stat because it shows Carolina’s overall trend of losing competitive offensive games. The Panthers have been famous for squandering games in the 4th quarter or even on the final drive. When the game gets close in the second half, coaching continuously fails to outduel opponents. This stat tells the most complete story of the coaching staff’s inability to win offensive-minded games. If the Panthers’ defense isn’t elite, they lose. That’s unacceptable and it falls on the head coach.
Matt Rhule and Ben McAdoo are squandering a boatload of talent on this Panthers offense. Moore, Christian McCaffrey, Laviska Shenault and Robbie Anderson are all explosive playmakers who aren’t getting enough opportunities, or the right ones. These guys need the ball in space. McAdoo needs to implement more misdirection and creativity in this offense to get them the ball quickly, with blockers in front.
WR screens, PA rollouts and jet sweeps need to be a much bigger part of this offense. Mayfield has a strong proclivity for play-action passes, so it would be a shame not to use it. Unless Rhule and McAdoo have a Dolphins-like resurgence to end the season, I can’t advocate for keeping either of them on.
For More Great Football Content
Follow us on Twitter at @GridironHeroics for more great content. We appreciate you taking time to read our articles. To interact more with our community and keep up to date on the latest in Football news, JOIN OUR FREE FACEBOOK GROUP by CLICKING HERE
Pingback: Matt Rhule Fired After Failing Offense Leads To 1-4 Start - Gridiron Heroics