This is going to be an early pregame - going to be traveling without a
lot of access, so this will be more brief and early than normal.
Carolina and Buffalo come in with a lot of similarities. Both have
larger QBs than the norm for the
In a lot of ways, the Marrone offense is similar to what Carolina does.
Marrone, a former pro coordinator, had very modest success in a
middling conference - as have many pro guys trying to run a pro-style
system in college lately - until he embraced a college concept in full.
Last year at Syracuse, Marrone and OC Nate Hackett threw out some of the
complexities of the offense and focused hard on packaged plays, a
concept Carolina uses as well.
Packaged plays provide the quarterback with a read or two that direct
the QB on options for distributing the football. The QB can hand off or
throw to a short/intermediate receiver in various combinations, which
could include a number of different concepts. It could involve a zone
read, and usually does; the QB can handoff or keep based on reading the
DT or DE, depending on the play, but also has the ability to throw a
short pass (usually based on a LB read). It doesn't require the zone
read action; it can just be the option of handoff or throw, the way that
Aaron Rodgers has been handling it for years. Some concepts include
the zone read, a route concept or two, and a screen.
That's essentially how Marrone made his name in one short season -
scrapping his offense and embracing college concepts fully for the first
time. Syracuse would often run the same single play, because each of
the options allowed a different look.
That said, its potency against the Patriots left something to be
desired. They did some level of hurry-up, which is easier with packaged
concepts, but only ran 63 plays, not exceptional for an attempt at a
quick pace though more tied to inability. They had 15 drives, a full
third of which were 3 and out, and turned the ball over twice in their
own territory. Those 15 drives netted a total of 13 non-penalty first
Some of that comes with being a better 1st and 2nd down offense than
3rd down, where playaction and defensive indecision are less of a
factor. Buffalo went 4/13 on third down (30%). Manuel was efficient
(66%) but only hit 150 yards; he had two scores on intermediate throws
and pitched in 3 rushes for 27 yards.
CJ Spiller was held to 17 rushes/41 yards by the Pats, and notably, was
their leading receiver with 5 catches, but had a long of 7 and only
gained a total of 14 yards. Backup Fred Jackson was 2nd in receiving (4
for 41) and had a better day running (13/67), and Scott Chandler pitched
in 4 receptions as well; leaving all WR to get a total of 5 receptions.
There's no doubt that the packaged concepts so far have yielded
efficient results, but not unlike Carolina, Buffalo faces week 2 wanting
to throw deep more.
That requires more conventional scheming to this point. Packaged plays
and hurry-up principles work well - it's like a hyper-West Coast
Offense. Dink, dunk, take what the defense gives you - just with more
opportunities and more options. But its versatility still leaves you
wanting for some things, and the vertical game is part of that. You
can't sell the run block hard on the line and send your receiver to the
typical 40 and 5 of the deep ball. You can't 7-step drop in a format
that lets you have an option keeper. That gets your QB killed. It's
also low-percentage against the remaining high percentage options.
Nonetheless, Spiller and Jackson are a good 1-2 combo that require
attention at all times. Spiller is a breakaway threat that must be
contained. Steve Johnson has the ability to bust one open at WR, were
they to get him the ball. It's an offense that's open and can be
creative at times, that will look to be creative to provide those
options, none of which were really had against the Patriots.
To counter, Carolina will likely look to Cover 1 Robber options, and
might find it best to do a little blitzing in the middle to hurry those
options. Teams with a box safety seem to stand a better chance at
stopping this type team, though it's hard to say with Quintin Mikell
being more or less absent in the stat box. Teams that get natural
pressure like Carolina can struggle against a team like this, since the
rush doesn't necessarily have as long to get there.
Without going through the full list, I think that Greg Hardy on massive
LT Cordy Glenn will be interesting; however, the middle of the line is
missing Andy Levitre, giving Carolina an inside advantage, and RT Erik
Peers was a liability last season.
The interesting thing about the Bills' staff remains that the Jets
allowed Mike Pettine not only to leave, but to leave within the
division. Pettine's defense pressured Tom Brady significantly last week
(17 of 54 dropbacks, with 6 hits, 2 sacks) and gave a lot of looks -
4-3, 3-4 mixed in, and a mix of even and odd fronts on nickel.
Rightside rusher Mario Williams is obviously a focus; his size and
experience in the 3-4 allow him to play the 3-4 OLB, DE as well as 4-3
end; my work on DT Marcel Dareus and his potential fits in the Carolina
pro multiple highlight his own ability to play almost anywhere on the
line. OLB Manny Lawson provides significant rush as well. This is a
defense that's going to bring a lot of looks, and a good bit of
That said, their pass concentration didn't extend to the run, where
they were gashed for 158 yards. They don't have a significant LB
corps, and while they have Kyle Williams and Alan Branch to go next to
Dareus, it's not a top run stopping front 7. Rookie Kiko Alonzo takes
on the middle linebacker job, with a mix of Alex Moats and Nigel Bradham
playing the remaining spot, none showing to be that dynamic.
CB Stephon Gilmore has been limited this week - the strong cover corner
potentially being out would be a big step as there's not a lot of depth.
S Jairus Byrd hasn't been practicing either - the somewhat injured but
definitely unhappy franchise player probably doesn't play this week.
Hard-nosed but somewhat limited Jim Leonhard plays instead, executing
the scheme as he did in NY, where he was a key to the complex back-end
They are a team that, if they're spread out, can have challenges.
That's only going to be expanded if Byrd and Gilmore aren't playing;
however, Carolina only kept 4 WR active last week and didn't use Armanti
Edwards much. Staff have suggested all 5 will be active this week, and
will play, but time will tell if that's actually the case.