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State of the offense

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Back in training camp, running back Jonathan Stewart was asked to describe offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's system.

Could he put a label on the offense?

"No," Stewart replied. "Every day is different. That's what Chud wants. That's what he likes about the many options that we have."

The Carolina Panthers offense can be characterized as a diverse, multiple attack. That's a reflection of Chudzinski's approach, combined with the unique skillsets of the players that make up his huddle.

"I've always believed, that as a coach, you want to utilize the unique qualities and special talents that guys have and put them in the best position to be successful," Chudzinski said. "Whatever that is, that shows up in terms of what kind of plays you're running on game day."

After setting a franchise record with 6,237 total yards and scoring 48 touchdowns -- the second most in team history -- in his first season leading Carolina's offense, Chudzinski's philosophy has the players excited about the offense's potential in year two.

"He's really just a genius," Stewart said of Chudzinski. "He spends a lot of time with the offense trying to create ways for players to be successful, and that's what a good offensive coordinator is all about."


The yards and touchdowns attract the attention, but the success of Chudzinsi's offense is rooted in the individuals who won't gain a single yard or score a single touchdown. His offensive line has to be effective for the offense to function.

"I really believe the offensive line is the heartbeat of any offense," Chudzinksi said. "The group we have makes us tick."

The Panthers are counting on a rookie at left guard this season with second-round pick Amini Silatolu earning a starting role. At right tackle, Byron Bell -- who was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2011 -- is entering just his second year.

But that youth joins veteran leaders in left tackle Jordan Gross, center Ryan Kalil and right guard Geoff Hangartner.

"It's a good mix with the veteran leadership that we have and some younger guys that are breaking in," Chudzinski said. "Being around Jordan, Ryan and Geoff really helps those guys on a day-to-day basis, seeing what it takes to make it in this league."


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The offensive line will work to give quarterback Cam Newton the time he needs to utilize the weapons at his disposal as he begins his second season.

Newton threw for an NFL rookie record 4,051 yards last year. He also established an NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 14.

It was a remarkably productive debut campaign, and Chudzinski anticipates seeing a step in growth from his signal-caller.

"Cam's as hungry as he's been since he got here," Chudzinski said. "He's definitely taken major strides in understanding the offense. We've been able to go back and start from scratch again, and install things, and his understanding of what we're trying to do has come a long way."

"We expect him to be better," Chudzinski added. "We expect him to keep making the strides we need him to make."


DeAngelo Williams and Stewart have been a prolific rushing tandem for years, but more talent was added to the backfield when the team signed Mike Tolbert as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

Tolbert will line up at running back, fullback and tight end in the Panthers' offense. That's the type of versatility Chudzinski admires and hopes to take full advantage of.

"The biggest thing is he's willing to do all those things," Chudzinski said. "Mike is a versatile guy. He's unselfish, and we're just really lucky to have him."

That same selfless attitude can be applied to Williams and Stewart, who have embraced the offense and their shared roles within it.

"With those guys and the type of people they are and their team-first attitude, it works," Chudzinski said. "As we go on, we'll be able to utilize those guys and let each one of them do the things that they do well. They'll all contribute."


Chudzinski's assessment of the preseason is one likely shared by the other 31 offensive coordinators in the NFL.

"Just like any preseason, we were sometimes good, sometimes not so good," he said.

As the regular season opener nears, it's the inconsistency that Chudzinski and the offense are working to eliminate.

"Ultimately, what we want is to be consistent," Chudzinski said. "That's what we're trying to do this year – consistency in our execution."

If that consistency is developed, the league's seventh-ranked offense from a year ago should prove to be even more potent in 2012.

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