Panthers defense prepares for Bills’ up-tempo attack

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Philadelphia Eagles had the entire league buzzing in their season opener Monday night.

As
the Eagles put on an offensive clinic in the first half, the Redskins
sucked wind. It was impossible not to wonder if you weren’t watching an
NFL
revolution — the moment where everything changes.
The
Panthers saw the Eagles in preseason and they’ll see the second-closest
thing come Sunday in the form of new Buffalo Bills head coach Doug
Marrone’s
no-huddle attack, led by rookie dual-threat quarterback EJ Manuel.

“Not sure if it’s quite as fast as Philly, but they’re definitely up-tempo,” defensive tackle Dwan Edwards said.

Marrone
says the roots of his attack aren’t based in Kelly’s attack and
believes this isn’t a new phenomenon. He’s quick to reference previous
no
huddle attacks of Joe Theismann’s Redskins and the offense Marv Levy ran
at times with the Bills — both of which went to the Super Bowl. Those
two weren’t as fast as the Eagles, but Marrone said a lot of
the roots of Kelly’s offense and his today
come from those offenses. He also employed similar tactics at times as the offensive coordinator
in New Orleans.

“Obviously
we’ve had that everywhere we’ve been — even if you just want to talk
about it as two-minute offense. Even in New Orleans, we had different
types of huddles, different types of tempos to be able to control the
game and a lot of spontaneous plays where we could just go ahead and
line up on the ball,” Marrone said. “It’s always been there in the
system.”

There’s
been some study of the old Oregon offense, but it’s too difficult to
replicate something without knowing the ins and outs.

Therefore, Marrone’s and Kelly’s
styles
and attacks differ.

“As
far as what the tempo does, it changes the pace of the game, puts a
little bit more pressure on the calls coming out quicker,” Marrone said.
“The
two ways we use to think about attacking were shifting motion, and
change the formation and make defenses go through multiple calls, but I
think the defense caught up and they just went field and boundary calls.
Now I think with the tempo, you try to get them
to limit some of the calls. So I think everyone can be different as far
as what you’re seeing with the attacking style.”

The
tempo’s not the same but Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees a lot of
similarities in what the Panthers have been doing the last two years
with the
read option. They haven’t run versatile attack as much this season – mostly
because Rivera’s aware of the risks of what this offense could look
like without Cam Newton. 

“We’re
still trying to find the right balance,” Rivera said. “The concern
would be what happens if your quarterback is hurt. Do you have two
Michael
Vicks? Do you have two RG3s? Do you have two Colin Kaepernicks? Because
if you don’t have two exacts, do you have to fall back to more
traditional? Only time will tell, everybody talked about the Run-and-Shoot and the Wildcat another time. It’ll be interesting
to see how it all unfolds, but it’s been a lot more fun because people
are talking about what’s going on with offenses.”

Rivera is
also aware of the pressure that tempo puts on your own defense.

Faster
tempo and more plays means quicker three-and-outs and less recuperation
time.

Regardless, defensive end Greg Hardy’s ready for the Bills’ speed and thinks he knows exactly how to slow it down.

“They
get plays off fast, but like I said, you can’t get plays off that fast
when you get hit in the mouth by Kraken all day — plain and simple,”
Hardy said, referencing his own nickname. “You got guys on the ground, guys
getting up slow, and your tempo slows down.”

Panthers
coach Ron Rivera’s got a little different plan to slow them down, but
it still centers around his defense. Rivera wouldn’t give away whether
linebacker Luke Kuechly will have preset calls, though, to counteract
the speed of the Bills’ offense.

“The
most important thing, more than anything else, is when you play these up-tempo teams is if you can control the chains, three-and-out and it
doesn’t
matter because your offense is back on the field,” Rivera said. “How we
handle things when it comes to first and second down is just as
important. You want to slow them down and get them off the field.”

Other Panthers aren’t necessarily sold the evolution is here to stay either.

“I
think the league’s going to be a passing league regardless,” cornerback
Josh Norman said. “These guys are athletic, man. I don’t know if that’s
going to hold up that much.”

Norman
may not necessarily be sold on the tempo, but he does think the zone
read in the spread attack puts more pressure on the defense in the run
game. The need to set and maintain the edge for defensive ends to
counteract the threat of the quarterback tucking and taking off can slow
down a pass rush and make it harder to crash down on the hand off. That
threat of the quarterback taking off and running
makes it more difficult on the edge for corners, too, who can easily get
caught looking and have to account for all 11 men.

“You
can pull the ball, you can throw the ball, you got a lot of elements
that go into that,” Norman said. “But just reading off keys and letting
the guys up front go hunt because like I said they are athletes up there
to the point where they’re going to get to the quarterback.