Pregame Notes: Panthers at Cardinals

All week, the narrative in Carolina has revolved around the quarterback situation. Specifically, the short-term health of Cam Newton, clouded by acres of speculation regarding his long-term status as the team’s franchise quarterback.

To quote the great Warner Wolf: “nobody knows nothing.” It’s all speculation. Long-term? Who knows?

From our end, it’s time to lay down the speculation and focus in on what we do know. There’s a football game today, and Kyle Allen is the quarterback. On the other side, there’s a very game opponent in the Arizona Cardinals, who went five quarters deep against Detroit in an eventual tie, followed by a narrow loss on the road against Baltimore’s supremely balanced operation.

Here are a few notes to get you ready for this afternoon’s contest:

Zona’s Air-Raid Offense

Arizona’s rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury has installed his version of the famed “Air Raid” offense from his Texas Tech days. It has opened up the field for his rookie quarterback, Kyler Murray, who has thrown for 300 yards in each of his first two starts.

So what exactly is the “Air Raid”? Well, several notable coaches have employed it (and continue to use it) in the past: Mike Leach, Lavell Edwards, Kevin Sumlin, Art Briles. Detect a theme? Yes, it’s primarily a college offense with an emphasis on 10 personnel. You’re seeing more and more of this sprinkled into the NFL game, but nothing like what the Cardinals are doing.

Basically, you’ll see very little TE action, typically 4 WR, often in a 2 x 2 set. Occasionally, you’ll see a trips look on one side with an iso on the other.

This is precisely what Arizona has been doing all season. David Johnson, their all-world running back, has not been heavily involved to this point. Johnson has less than 100 yards rushing on the season, and has not been an active part of their passing game. I would expect that to change, possibly today. You’ll see Johnson lined up in the slot, and I would expect to see more rushing attempts out of that 4WR look. It will be interesting to see how Carolina plans to defend that.

Dime For Your Thoughts 

Speaking of which, look for Carolina to run a good bit of dime coverage today. The 3-4 front that was much discussed in the off-season? Forget about it. You won’t be seeing it. If you do, it’ll be sparse.

Now, you could still see a three-man front, with up to seven defensive backs in the game at a time. I would suspect plenty of 4-DL dime looks. Defensive back Ross Cockrell played a key part in Ron Rivera’s dime package against the Rams in week one. This is a real opportunity for Cockrell to shine today, as he will likely see plenty of reps with defensive back for Rashaan Gaulden still out.

Kyle and Kyler

There’s a history here.

Flashback to 2015: Allen and Murray engaged in a heated competition for the starting quarterback job at Texas A&M. Murray, who was a true freshman at the time, lost out to Allen.

It didn’t last, as Murray eventually replaced Allen in the lineup, and led the Aggies to an 8-5 record.

In the end, both Allen and Murray ended up transferring to Houston and Oklahoma, respectively. Several years later, Allen worked his way into the league as an undrafted free agent, while his counterpart landed the Heisman Trophy last season and became this year’s number one overall pick in the NFL.

It’s a fascinating battle between two familiar foes.


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