Sunday, September 16, 2007

Single-Wing Phenom: The DeAngelo Shuffle

Rookie Becomes Single-Wing Phenom: The DeAngelo Shuffle

The Carolina Panthers had broken the huddle for a critical third-and-1 play during their first drive against Atlanta on Sunday, and there was quarterback Chris Weinke, standing on the sideline, watching.

In his place, waiting for the shotgun snap, was rookie running back DeAngelo Williams.

But the thousands watching in the Georgia Dome were apparently no more surprised than the Falcons, who hadn't seen anything like this in film study. While they were checking their playbooks, Williams took the snap and darted 6 yards around right end for the first down.

On Carolina's next third down, Weinke was on the sideline again, and again Williams got the snap and the first down, gaining 2 when he needed 1. The play was suddenly the game's theme, with the conservative Panthers calling it over and over.

Carolina would use the formation on eight third downs during its 10-3 victory, and convert on seven. The Panthers lined up in that manner 11 times, but two plays were wiped out by penalties, nullifying gains of 6 and 13 yards.

Eight of the nine that counted produced positive yards, 36 total for a 4.0 average. More important than the average, though, were the results. All those first downs helped Carolina control the ball (41 minutes 47 seconds time of possession) and the game.

The play was nothing fancy; Panthers coach John Fox called it 'a two-tight end, almost a single-wing kind of thing.'

It has a name, but since the Panthers actually use the name during games, we won't reveal it here. Hey, call it the DeAngelo Shuffle.

The Falcons were probably calling it something else.

'They caught us off guard with it,' Atlanta defensive tackle Grady Jackson said. 'They came in and wanted to spread us out. They didn't want to run up the middle and wanted to attack us on the edge. They came in with a great game plan.'

Carolina's offensive linemen noticed the effect the maneuver had on the Falcons.

'They looked like they were a little thrown off at first,' guard Evan Mathis said. 'When we subbed out like that, you can't run to the line and just get off the ball right away; they had a little time to adjust because the referee's going to hold the snap a little bit.'

The extra time didn't seem to help much; the last time Carolina ran the play, it gained 13 yards, only to be called back by penalty.

Making it tougher for the Falcons to adjust was the fact Williams had the option to go anywhere, not specifically right or left or up the middle as in a typical running play.

'I run where there's daylight,' he said. 'I do what my coach at Memphis, Tommy West, always told me, `Scratch it where it itch.'

'It's wherever you want to take the ball. It is a designed play; it's a designed play to go anywhere.'

Williams was quick to credit the offensive line in general and fullback Brad Hoover in particular for making the formation work. He said he wasn't nervous, he had often taken direct snaps in college.

'The hardest part of all was getting my feet together,' he said. 'I was making sure that I when I go right or when I go left I didn't give it away by (moving) a certain foot.'

As well as the play worked, one thing Williams never tried was a pass. Asked if such a thing might have been a possibility, left tackle Jordan Gross smiled.

'I think DeAngelo can do anything with that ball, but we didn't have to show it today.'

Let New Orleans have something to think about for next week.

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