Picture-perfect: A tale of two Cams … and more

Picture-perfect: A tale of two Cams … and more

Carolina Panthers’ strategy for building around Cam Newton was crystal clear.’ data-reactid=”22″>By the time the 2017 NFL draft was over, the Carolina Panthers’ strategy for building around Cam Newton was crystal clear.

The Panthers, weary of seeing their 6-foot-6 (and generously-listed), 260-pound star absorb blow after blow in the pocket, wanted to make life easier on their quarterback. That meant giving him more versatile weapons in the passing game, men who could take a quick throw or handoff and gain big yardage.

McCaffrey is already among the league’s most elusive backs, and Samuel — who missed the first four games of this year with an irregular heartbeat — showed potential in his season debut Sunday, catching two passes (on four targets) for 37 yards in the Panthers’ 33-31 win over the New York Giants, including one that epitomized the first thing I enjoyed from Week 5, which was …’ data-reactid=”25″>The Panthers’ offense sputtered some in 2017 as those guys got acclimated to the NFL, but we’re starting to see the strategy pay off this season. McCaffrey is already among the league’s most elusive backs, and Samuel — who missed the first four games of this year with an irregular heartbeat — showed potential in his season debut Sunday, catching two passes (on four targets) for 37 yards in the Panthers’ 33-31 win over the New York Giants, including one that epitomized the first thing I enjoyed from Week 5, which was …

Check out this dynamic, 25-yard touchdown catch by Samuel below:

The first thing I like is Samuel’s elusiveness. He somehow scored after being surrounded by five Giants at one point. This is the kind of easy-but-dynamic play the Panthers were hoping to add to their offense a year ago, and the same can also be said for Newton’s second touchdown pass of the day to McCaffrey:

What I liked most overall from Samuel’s score is that it came off play-action. The Panthers are a play-action heavy team — they call it 26 percent of the time, according to Football Outsiders, tied for the sixth-most in the league — but their yards per play on such calls is only 6.7, which is tied for 24th.

Kansas City Chiefs traded for Cameron Erving last August for a fifth-round pick, the trade was met with taunting from Cleveland fans (who swore that the 2015 first-round pick was a bust) and confusion from Chiefs fans (who largely assumed the same).’ data-reactid=”41″>When the Kansas City Chiefs traded for Cameron Erving last August for a fifth-round pick, the trade was met with taunting from Cleveland fans (who swore that the 2015 first-round pick was a bust) and confusion from Chiefs fans (who largely assumed the same).

And while it’s true that Erving struggled to find a fit in Cleveland, playing tackle and guard and center, he seems to have found a home at left guard for the Chiefs, who signed him to a two-year extension in early September and have been rewarded with the best play of his career on the league’s No. 1 offense.

“I got rewarded with a contract extension at the beginning of the season but that’s never been enough for me,” Erving told Yahoo Sports. “For everybody who always said I couldn’t do this, who said I couldn’t play at this level, I envision that every time I step on that field.”

After spending 2017 getting acclimated to Kansas City’s offensive system, Erving reported to camp this year stronger, more flexible and more motivated than to prove he could, in fact, be an NFL starter.

“I definitely got stronger this offseason,” Erving said. “I worked on my hips, did a whole bunch of squatting and lower-body work, abs, core.”

Calais Campbell, a monstrous 6-8, 300-pounder. Erving started the play by selling the zone run, all while maintaining the proper depth for the play-action pass that was called.’ data-reactid=”52″>What Erving did in the first quarter of the Chiefs’ win over the Jags on Sunday is another example of his improved aggression and attitude. On a third-and-1, Erving was matched up with All-Pro defensive end Calais Campbell, a monstrous 6-8, 300-pounder. Erving started the play by selling the zone run, all while maintaining the proper depth for the play-action pass that was called.

“I just wanted to take a good set,” Erving said. “Then it was time to fight.”

Erving does just that, throwing Campbell — a bonafide stud — to the ground in pass protection:

Erving’s improvement is about more than plays like this. He has also used his athleticism to climb to the second level efficiently and perform difficult reach blocks:

He still needs to work on his leverage and technique because he’s a 6-6 guy and that’s tall for a guard. Opponents sometimes get under him and slide past him, but that can be corrected by technique as the season goes on. As Erving continues to gain confidence, it’s starting to look like this was a deal that will pay off for the Chiefs.

“I’m proving to myself and guys I play with that I can compete and help the team win,” Erving said. “I’ve always wanted to be a Pro Bowl or All-Pro player, and I feel like I’m on my way to becoming those things. I’m in a system with a bunch of good players and it’s been really fun, so I’m gonna continue to just ride this wave and we’re gonna rock out.”

like Indianapolis’ Ryan Grant, for instance), so my delight was rooted as much in my surprise as it was his dominance on the play. Regardless, kudos Mr. Woods — let’s see it again in the future.’ data-reactid=”78″>Woods isn’t known as a run-blocking monster (like Indianapolis’ Ryan Grant, for instance), so my delight was rooted as much in my surprise as it was his dominance on the play. Regardless, kudos Mr. Woods — let’s see it again in the future.

Winters, 27, has been one of the better pass-blocking guards in the NFL this season. At 6-4, 320 pounds, he’s strong and stout, and entering his sixth season, his awareness has steadily improved since his rookie year.

Sam Darnold is the Jets’ future, and the franchise will place a priority on keeping him upright for years to come. Darnold has been sacked 11 times this season, tied for 13th among quarterbacks, and efforts like Winters’ on Sunday will only help them get that number down.’ data-reactid=”86″>Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold is the Jets’ future, and the franchise will place a priority on keeping him upright for years to come. Darnold has been sacked 11 times this season, tied for 13th among quarterbacks, and efforts like Winters’ on Sunday will only help them get that number down.

Frank Ragnow in the first round and trade up for Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson in the second, and it was clear general manager Bob Quinn and new Lions coach Matt Patricia were intent on running the football this season.’ data-reactid=”89″>Add in the team’s decision to draft center/guard Frank Ragnow in the first round and trade up for Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson in the second, and it was clear general manager Bob Quinn and new Lions coach Matt Patricia were intent on running the football this season.

LeGarrette Blount in the first quarter:’ data-reactid=”92″>Check out this 1-yard plunge by LeGarrette Blount in the first quarter:

 

Taylor Decker (No. 68) and Ragnow (No. 77) to chuck his way in:’ data-reactid=”99″>Later in the quarter, Blount again took it in from the 1-yard line, this time using his nimble feet (for a 250-pounder) and nose for the end zone to read the outstanding double-team block by Taylor Decker (No. 68) and Ragnow (No. 77) to chuck his way in:

The Lions are on a bye this week, but this win provided nice momentum as they look to build on their 2-3 record. If they do, know that a somewhat-revived run game will likely play a role in that.

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