By Zach Goins
August 13, 2020
If there’s one word that will come to define the Panthers’ offense this year, it’s speed.
There’s running back Christian McCaffrey, one of the most explosive and exciting players in football. There’s also the dynamic receiving duo of Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore, who can stretch the field vertically and horizontally.
Throw in the acquisition of one of the league’s most dangerous deep threats in free agent wide receiver Robby Anderson, a dual-threat quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, new offensive coordinator Joe Brady, and suddenly the Panthers are one of the most intriguing offenses in the NFL.
Just take it from Samuel.
“It’s going to be a great year. So much speed in our room. So much speed,” Samuel said during a Zoom press conference Thursday. “You’ve got guys that can just blaze by you. That’s a threat, and that’s something that we have to our advantage. When we line up against defenses, they know that they’ve got to get running.”
In an offseason where the Panthers made a number of flashy acquisitions, Brady and his offensive genius may have been the most exciting after winning the College Football Playoff National Championship in January with LSU. Along the way, Brady, the team’s passing game coordinator, helped the Tigers’ offense rank first in points and yards per game, while taking home the Broyles Award as college football’s top assistant coach. Now, Samuel and the Panthers are excited to see Brady bring his high-powered offense to Carolina.
“I sort of had an idea of what my role was going to be coming into the season and different things that I can do,” Samuel said. “Each and every day we go out on that practice field and I’m excited, because I know it’s something special.”
Part of what makes the offense special– besides the speed– is its versatility, according to Samuel. Last year, Samuel was the team’s second-leading rusher behind McCaffrey, but with just 130 yards on 19 attempts, he wasn’t exactly lighting up the stat sheet on the ground. Based on his coy answers Thursday, it seems like Samuel will be doing a lot more than just lining up out wide this season.
“With my skill-set, the ability to do so much outside, inside and play running back, I have a lot of experience playing different places in my career,” Samuel said, refusing to go into too much detail. “That definitely gives me the flexibility to do more.”
Head coach Matt Rhule has previously hinted at Samuel lining up at running back, and photos from the Panthers showing McCaffrey catching deep balls only further emphasizes the flexibility of what fans can expect from Brady’s offense.
“Some teams you probably can pinpoint where the deep ball is coming from, just based off of if they have big guys,” Samuel explained. “Small guy over here, big guy over here, little guy over here. So, having three guys, four, however many we do on the field, you can’t determine where the deep ball is coming from, because we’ve got so many guys that can just run right by you. That keeps the defense knowing that whoever they’re matched up on, they’ve got to get running.”
While opposing defenses will likely be the victim of the Panthers’ offense in a few weeks, right now it’s Carolina’s own defense trying to keep the wideouts in check. Linebacker Tahir Whitehead, a free agent signee from the Raiders, compared all the threats to something out of his nightmares.
“It stresses them out. It keeps them up at night. That’s exactly what the hell it does,” Whitehead said Thursday. “Those guys are blazing fast. You go out there and we’re looking like, ‘Golly, we got to go up against that. We have to match up with that.’ It’s a great challenge for us to have.”
Covering the likes of Samuel, Moore, Anderson and McCaffrey may seem like a burden now, but Whitehead knows it will pay dividends in the long run.
“Once you get into the season and once we get rolling, you’ve seen it already,” Whitehead said of the team’s speed. “I don’t think there are too many other guys that have that type of speed and finesse and hands.”
While Samuel wasn’t willing to speak on other team’s receivers like Whitehead, he did voice his confidence in himself and his own unit.
“I’m a competitor. I’m never going to say I’m not the fastest,” Samuel said. “I ain’t worried about everybody else. I’m worried about the group of guys that we’ve got in our room, how fast we are. We worry about ourselves, the sky is the limit.”
Watch LIVE as Curtis Samuel addresses the media from training camp https://t.co/5S275jIOOa
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) August 13, 2020