4 wide A Sign Of Spread?
Since Carolina hired Jeff Davidson, I had anticipated a more open offense - a sign that came a bit in 2007, and I assumed would happen more in 2008 despite being run-based (still surprised we traded for a huge RT after getting a power back - Deangelo Williams, a basic complement, and a LT would've made a lot of sense for an open O, and at the time DJ Hackett pointed to using the slot WR again).
Since then we've seen an offense that relies on 2 TE most, two backs next, and three wides only when necessary - third and more than ten in more conservative situations. Charlie Weis, meanwhile, ran the Pats offense using a ton of 3 wides - often mixing bigger receivers with open space. His offense, even without him, has been run with a heavy mix of 3 WR - consider the Matt Cassell Patriots, or the Todd Haley offenses (Haley comes to the O by way of Sean Payton), or just consider the Pats (big WRs plus Wes Welker in the slot), or Payton's Saints, the most open offense around. In comparison, while not "wrong", Carolina has used the same offense in a much more conservative way. Is that on its way out in favor of a more progressive approach?
The sign of drafting nearly a trillion wide receivers in the draft - and most importantly 3rd round pick Armanti Edwards - suggests that the Panthers will be using more spread. There's no need for 3 new WR, plus keeping all but one of the existing bunch, plus a very expensive trade for a slot-specific player, without the expectation of using them.
Then, in OTAs last month, they practiced exclusively passing game for the first few days, and centered on 4 wide sets. It points to the idea that, at the least, they're open to the idea of using it more, opening the offense.
It doesn't have to come at the cost of the running game. A 3 WR set against a nickel defense means much less run blitzing (teams often run blitz zone running teams), without giving up the zone. You still have six blockers, this time against a six man front.
And the main deterrent to our current offense, an eighth man in the box, immediately goes away. Teams can use it, but to the deterrent of the two-deep shell that almost every nickel D uses (exception goes to doubling the TE, which no one will do to Carolina). Running with one-on-one blocking, with no worries of a blitz or 8th man? Sounds great from here.
It won't mean a lack of reliance on the running game - it won't mean that 3rd and four becomes an automatic passing down. It'll just leave some options available.