Playbook: Panthers 'counter' option

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Option football does exist in the NFL when you have the personnel at the QB position to run the Read Option, Speed Option and the “Counter” Option. Today, I want to take a look back at the Saints-Panthers matchup from the 2011 season and breakdown Carolina’s option scheme with Cam Newton at QB.

Check out the replay of DeAngelo William’s 69-yard TD run vs. closed (strong) side pressure and then we will get into some coaching points.

Saints at Panthers
Personnel: Regular (2WR-1TE-2RB)
Formation: Pro (Weak I)
Scheme: “Counter” Option

“Counter” action: Key to any counter or mis-direction scheme (think "Counter OF" in the downhill run game). The Panthers have a “Weak I” alignment in the backfield and work the FB to the open (weak) side of the formation (LBs track the FB on the initial step). With Newton using counter action (and Williams stepping to the weak side of the formaiton), the second level of the Saints defense reads open side.

QB read: Option football in the NFL is no different than high school on Friday nights when we talk about the QB “reading” the end-man on the line of scrimmage. Here, the Saints are sending SS Roman Harper on a closed side pressure scheme. If Harper takes an upfield angle, Newton will keep the ball. And if Harper crashes down the line of scrimmage (as we see on the replay), Newton will pitch to Williams. Quick, simple read for the Panthers QB with Harper declaring his angle at the snap of the ball.

Where is the Saints secondary?

-Start with the CB to the closed side playing a “solo” technique (man coverage with no inside help). You want to coach him up to “give ground” in this situation. We are already looking at an explosive play. However, if the CB can keep outside leverage on the WR stalk block and force the ball carrier to change direction (or work back to the middle of the field) you have a chance to get him on the ground. Don’t try to dive under the block and make a tackle. Instead, work off the stalk blocker and hold on until your help arrives (inside pursuit). Live to see another down vs. any explosive run that gets vertical vs. a CB in a stalk block situation.

-The Saints are playing a “Fist” technique (2-Man call) over the No.1 WR to the open side (Steve Smith). Because of that, FS Malcolm Jenkins has to travel a long way from the opposite numbers—but he still has a shot to make this tackle. Why does he miss and allow Williams to take this for six points? Poor technique. You want to coach up your FS to use the sideline. A basic drill every DB should work throughout training camp. Take an angle that allows you to target (and run through) the inside shoulder of the ball carrier. Pin the runner into the sideline and force him to cutback into the tackle. When you stop your feet vs. an NFL RB down the field, you don’t stand a chance to make the play.

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