Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson enters his second season with the team with a new outlook. Here's why:
Quarterback Jake Delhomme is healthy.
The offensive line has been overhauled.
A powerful running back has arrived via the draft.
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The receiving corps appears to be the deepest and most talented the Panthers have had in years.
Davidson talked with reporters Thursday about the Panthers' offensive unit and how the new parts might fit together, including whether the zone blocking scheme he brought in last season might be a thing of the past and how second-year receiver Dwayne Jarrett still has a lot of work to do.
Davidson's answers were edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: How tough was it to not have Jake last season?
We kind of feel like we're where we were last year at this time. Things were starting to click and guys were rallying around him. (Not having him) definitely put a limit on what we could do. When you have one quarterback, you can kind of grow and expand in the direction the team takes you. We didn't have a great opportunity to expand last year.
Q: With a new, bigger line, do you think the team can be more successful on short yardage situations than last season?
Our big focus will be to try and move the line of scrimmage. Not a lot of teams do that, but we have a chance to really run downhill. Personnel comes into play and we have to make sure we do a better job of coaching.
Q: Does all the turnover on offense worry you?
We have started back at Step One, but it doesn't concern me. Last year we were thinking of being a zone-blocking team, but now there are a few different directions we might go. One thing as a coach you do is figure out what we do best, then do that. Throughout the preseason, we'll experiment with what type of plays we're running or throwing.
Q: Does the personnel match the plan better this season?
I firmly believe your plan has to match the personnel. There are a certain number of directions we can go, based on the players on the field, so the plan might change, based on the guys we have.
Q: How much has Steve Smith's two-game suspension set the offense back?
I guess it would set us back some. We'll figure out what our scheme will be for Week1, and I understand the personnel has to change. But we'll deal with it then.
Q: How have your conversations with Steve gone since the suspension?
The important thing – and this hasn't changed from last season – is to make sure we're open with one another. We've done a decent job of communicating, and I hope to continue to do so.
Q: This seems to be an offensive line built for run-blocking. But there's a lot of footwork and quickness needed for pass-blocking. How will they do with that?
One thing with pass blocking is guys have to learn where help is coming from. There are some one-and-ones in pass protection, but you want to limit that. That's the trick to pass protection. As these guys work together, the more they'll understand how to use each other's help.
Q: How do you feel about the receivers?
We created a lot of competition. I truly feel like when guys are being pushed, that's the greatest asset there right now.
Q: Dwayne Jarrett had a disappointing rookie season. How's he looked so far?
Sometimes he's done better than (other times). Right now he's got to get a level of consistency he's comfortable with. It's not a matter of him not understanding things, but it has got to happen faster. Time will tell. A lot of that is in his court. He has to control it. I wouldn't say it's a lack of desire, but he's really got to step up for us.
Q: How has rookie running back Jonathan Stewart's sore toe limited him so far?
We've been a little tentative with him. But he's as explosive, fast and powerful as I thought he'd be. But he's still got to understand which way our plays go and protections. It will take some time.
Q: Have you been impressed with running back DeAngelo Williams' camp?
He's taking a more active role in leadership. I don't want to make it sound like he was immature, but he's really grown up. On and off the field, he helps with the young guys. In his approach to the game, maybe it's become more important to him.
Q: How has Julius Peppers looked from the offense's point of view?
The easiest answer is that a number of times in practice, you definitely feel his presence.
Q: Has Muhsin Muhammad's blocking been a plus?
That is important, but I've been pleasantly surprised, not just in his blocking, but his route running. He keeps in tremendous shape. But most important is what he's done off the field. He has a leadership presence that we need.
Q: You didn't sign a veteran quarterback to back up Delhomme. Does that mean you're happy with Matt Moore and Brett Basanez?
I'm comfortable with the decision, but we're always looking for upgrades. Realistically, if we can get a fullback, a tight end or another offensive lineman comes open on waivers, we'll bring him in. It's not a threat, but if we can upgrade, we will.
Q: Moore appears to have the No.2 job now. How's he done?
He does a good job. One thing Matt has now is that he sees the game is important to him. He goes out there and tries to be better in something every day. I admit, he's got a long way to go and has a lot to learn and he's still seeing things for the first time. We're trying to expand the offense for him. He comes back and talks to us about things, like he wasn't able to anticipate a throw that he will be able to do down the road.