Last week the Panthers played a very efficient offensive game with excellent run/pass balance, and great diversity and multiplicity of concepts. A big part of that offensive plan was taking advantage of quarterback Cam Newton's strengths as a runner.
One of the most interesting concepts involving Newton in the run game came in the second quarter against Minnesota, on a well-designed quarterback sweep. That's a play you don't see often.
The Panthers lined up three receivers right, and motioned running back DeAngelo Williams to the right side as well. When you face teams that run predominantly zone coverage like Minnesota, you're anticipating that the cornerback will have to be in the run front as an outside contain player (in this case, Minnesota's Chris Cook). Zone teams don't usually move cornerbacks to the other side of the field.
The Panthers made it look like an outside screen to Williams with the receivers blocking. You're trying to get second-level defenders to react. Newton fakes a throw that way.
On the left side of the line, the tight end blocks down on Vikings end Everson Griffen, and left guard Travelle Wharton pulled left. Because of the alignment, you're able to get Wharton on Cook, who wants no part of a pulling guard.
Newton gained 9 yards on the play.
Against the Vikings, the Panthers had a great mix in their run game. Newton can put pressure on a defense in multiple ways, and they'll take advantage of what he does.
Case Keenum scouting report
Houston quarterback Case Keenum will make his first career NFL start on Sunday against Kansas City. I watched him closely in the preseason because I heard the Texans liked him, and I saw a quarterback who has a refined sense of timing and anticipation in the three- and five-step drop passing game.
He delivers the ball well and has excellent location on in-breaking routes. Those are his throws, because he doesn't have a big arm and he's not going to drive the ball on deep comeback routes.
Based on a very small sample, I thought he fit the Texans' offense well because he’s a play-action, boot-action, shot-play type of quarterback. They don’t want to drive the ball off deep drops; that’s not their offense.
Broncos pass defense looks fine on film
When you watch Denver on film, you don’t see their pass defense and think it's bad. The stats have to be put in context.
The Broncos are 32nd in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, but that's skewed because they're ahead in every game and opponents have to throw early and often. Denver has faced the third most passing attempts per game of any defense in the NFL. They've also allowed the third highest yards per attempt in the NFL, but that's because teams have to score quickly and can't check the ball down. Denver's passer rating allowed is 87.8, which doesn't say "They can't stop anybody."
Sometimes, you have to put the numbers in context.
Watch Dallas' tight ends against Eagles on Sunday
One thing to watch in Sunday's Eagles-Cowboys game: The Eagles are one of the few teams in the NFL that hasn't played one snap of dime defense (six defensive backs) all year. When the Broncos used a nickel defense early against the Cowboys, Dallas used a lot of empty formations, many with multiple tight ends.
The Cowboys have three athletic tight ends (Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar and James Hanna), and if the Eagles don't use any dime defensive looks, there's a good chance linebackers Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans will have tough matchups against those tight ends.
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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.