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Carolina Panthers

Offense clicking under Chudzinski


CHARLOTTE - Rob Chudzinski didn't know quite what to expect.

When training camp kicked off three months ago, the Panthers' first-year offensive coordinator had seen plenty of his players on film but had barely had the chance to shake their hands.

Because of the protracted NFL work stoppage, Chudzinski hadn't gotten to install a single play, and when he did, he knew he'd be doing so with an inexperienced quarterback.

Chudzinski didn't know what to expect, but at the halfway point of the season, the Panthers' offense has exceeded all reasonable expectations.

"Really I was unsettled with the whole thing, just having not been around these guys and never having to install an offense in such a short amount of time," Chudzinski said. "I was unsure of how much they could handle and also had to figure out what they could do and what they're really good at. We had to be flexible enough to move in that direction.

"The guys have been outstanding. Whatever we ask of them, they respond."

When the Panthers begin the second half of their season Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, they'll do so having already exceeded some offensive marks that it took the 2010 team all season to reach.

--The Panthers have scored 21 offensive touchdowns through eight games. Last season, they managed only 16 offensive touchdowns.

--The Panthers have produced an NFL-best 47 offensive plays of 20 or more yards. They generated 44 such plays last season.

--The Panthers have marched 80 or more yards on 13 touchdown drives this season, tied with the Green Bay Packers for the most in the NFL. Last season, they totaled eight such drives.

A year after ranking last in the NFL in total offense, the Panthers stand fifth, averaging 415.1 yards per game.

Chudzinski deserves credit, though he's quick to share the credit.

"We have outstanding coaches," he said. "They've done a great job with their position groups, getting those guys ready to play.


"The group of players have a great attitude. They want to get better, and everything we've really focused on to improve, they've done. That's an important thing, that they respond in that way."

When the Panthers hired Ron Rivera as head coach in January, Chudzinski was among his first hires. The two had spent the previous two seasons together on the San Diego Chargers staff.

In 2010, with Chudzinski serving as assistant head coach and tight ends coach and with Rivera as defensive coordinator, the Chargers ranked first in the NFL in total offense and total defense.

"I believe in an attacking style of football – whether it's offense, defense or special teams," Rivera said. "Philosophically speaking, this offense is a vertical attack. It's one of the things I really fell in love with when I was in San Diego for four seasons, and that's why bringing in Chud was so important.

"He's a smart guy. He understands this game, and he's still growing. He's going to be very good. It's just a matter of time."

No one knew how long it would take Carolina's offense to reach a level of competence after a season in which the Panthers averaged an NFL-low 12.2 points per game.

The offense showed flashes in training camp but didn't often maintain success.

Then the regular season started.

"I wasn't really sure. In training camp, some things worked, some things didn't," running back DeAngelo Williams said. "But once you get to the regular season, it's will versus will, and that shows. We're executing. We're blocking downfield. We're getting some things done.

"Chud is putting us in great situations to succeed."

The rise of rookie quarterback Cam Newton, the re-emergence of wide receiver Steve Smith and the under-the-radar effort of the offensive line are among the reasons Chudzinski and the offense are headed in the right direction.

The journey, however, isn't even close to the finish line.

"I see the package still evolving," Chudzinski said. "It's a continuous improvement type of situation."

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