The Panthers are one of the surprise teams of 2021 so far after getting off to a 3-0 start. Their play on defense through three weeks has been the primary reason why, but the offense has contributed as well. Sam Darnold has been noticeably better with Carolina than he was in New York. So today, Friday Film Room will break down how the Panthers offensive line contributed to last night's big MNF victory.
The Panthers ran the ball effectively last night, even without McCaffrey, which will bode well for them moving forward if they can duplicate that success. Their YPC numbers were skewed by Darnold runs, but overall, they averaged over four YPC on RB runs, and Chuba Hubbard looked good rushing for 52 yards on 11 carries.
The play below is a 10-yard rush by McCaffrey. It was not perfect run blocking on this play but, McCaffrey's run ability combined with the efforts of Cam Irving allowed this play to work. Irving did not play great last night, but this was one of his better plays, as he blocked two players on this play.
The next play is a 13-yard run by Royce Freeman and was one of the offensive line's best group run-blocking efforts of the night. The freeze-frame highlights how all five guys got a man blocked.
The third play was not a spectacular run, but it is significant because stringing together multiple four-yard runs is crucial to a successful running attack, and with McCaffrey out, the Panthers will have to rely on these kinds of runs to have success on the ground. The freeze-frame shows how a huge running lane was created by all five linemen being engaged or in the way of a defender.
The Panthers O-line line allowed plenty of pressure as Darnold was sacked three times and under fire plenty more. This is concerning because it could be a problem when they are facing the numerous teams left on their schedule who will have a better QB than Davis Mills and are able to put pressure on this offense by scoring more points.
The play below was a total disaster. You rarely see all four offensive lineman get beat in pass pro, but that was the case in this play. Matt Paradis, the center, was dominated up the middle and allowed the sack. However, the tackles were just as bad on this play, especially Irving, who did not even attempt to shoot his hands.
The next play is a Darnold completion for eight yards, and he had to make it completely under fire as the Panthers offensive line struggled with blitz pick-up on the play.
The next play was a sack, and though the TE allowed the sack, RT Taylor Moton contributed to the result of this play by allowing a defender to beat him inside. He has to work his feet laterally quicker to do a better job of neutralizing that pressure.
Now we get to some of the good from the Panthers in pass pro. The play below shows a 16-yard completion from Darnold to DJ Moore. This was one of Darnold's best passes of the night and highlights what he is capable of when he has time to throw.
The final play is a 24-yard completion to DJ Moore (Moore had a big game if you didn't watch) on a play-action pass. This was one of the best pockets Darnold was able to operate from all night, as he had five seconds to throw, and no Texan defender ever got close to him.
Overall, the Panthers O-line played like you would expect the 24th ranked offensive line in our power rankings to perform. There was some good, and there was some bad. Moving forward, the Panthers need to try and focus on the things they did well and build on that. Their pass pro is always going to be inconsistent with liabilities like Irving and Dennis Daley upfront. However, the Panthers should be encouraged with their run-blocking. Carolina's offensive line had some times where they did not get it done run-blocking, but it was an overall solid performance, even when McCaffrey was not in the game, which is important. The Panthers had 34 pass attempts and 33 rush attempts. Some of those were scrambles on called passes, but their willingness to run and their effectiveness doing it will be the key to Carolina continuing their success or starting to come back to earth.