If Norv Turner’s offense came with a how-to guide, Jarius Wright would be the man to write it.
Wright, in his second season with the Panthers, has spent the bulk of his seven professional seasons under Turner’s tutelage. The pair linked up in Minnesota from 2014 to 2016, and then re-united last season when Turner was hired as Carolina’s offensive coordinator.
Yeah, safe to say Wright knows Norv better than anyone else on this Panthers’ offense.
“Man, I’ve been with Norv for...” Wright began saying after Sunday’s training camp practice, before pausing and laughing. “Five? Five, six years, man. So I’ve been with Norv really most of my career.”
What five years of working with someone gets you? A deep, almost-telepathic understanding of how they work — which is exactly the case with Wright and Turner.
As the puzzle pieces of this Carolina Panthers offense continue clicking into place, Wright can see the bigger picture. He knows what roles Turner will utilize, who on the offense is best-suited to each and what they need to do on practically every play.
Basically, he knows what this offense is supposed to look like.
Just let Wright share the wisdom from that hypothetical handbook:
“The ball is being spread around,” he explained. “Everybody is like, ‘Who’s the No. 1 receiver?’ No. Everybody’s gonna eat in this offense. From the running back all the way to the third and fourth receiver, whoever is at tight end ... It’s whoever.
“There’s no selfish guys. It’s not a selfish type of offense. There’s no, ‘Oh, throw me the ball on this certain play.’ Whoever is open, that’s who Cam is going to throw the ball to.”
The reason Wright’s expertise is so welcome — and necessary — now is because these are the days when players are learning the fundamentals of the playbook. They’re installing plays, learning which routes to run when. Forming the foundation of this year’s offense.
That also means adapting and adjusting to each players’ skill set. And with so many young, still-developing play-makers — from receivers Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore to tight end Ian Thomas and an entire young group of running backs — this is the best time to make those tweaks.
Take Samuel, for instance, who has been a standout through spring workouts and the first section of training camp. His blazing speed, coupled with body control and improved hands, makes him a natural candidate on deep routes, something the Panthers severely lacked in 2018. And Moore, with his yards-after-catch ability, has potential to excel in the slot where breaking tackles is more necessary.
And speaking of Samuel and Moore, those are also Wright’s two biggest pupils.
“Guys like DJ and Curtis, man they listen so well,” Wright said. “They embrace having me as an older guy, and I actually think they enjoy having me. With guys like that, it’s so easy.
“I go tell them something, they don’t take it any way. They don’t get pissed off. They don’t ... turn their back.”
Of course, Wright’s mentoring doesn’t necessarily mean the Panthers’ offense will be a success. There’s a long list of question marks that need answering first, everything ranging from the health of Cam Newton’s shoulder to how the left side of the offensive line comes together. If those things don’t pan out, that can limit Turner’s options and cause the offense to stagnate like it did over the latter half of last season.
There’s how Turner’s offense should look, and then how it will actually be.
Through four training camp practices, there’s optimism about what Turner can scheme up for this group. And whether it’s deep balls or dink-and-dunk, there are guys capable of filling those roles.
And Wright wants to help them slot into those as quickly as possible.
“Norv does a great job of doing what fits his personnel the best,” Wright said. “You can throw it deep, or you can throw it five yards and let us run the rest.
“The way this offense has came out and played is very encouraging. And we have a great defense, so I feel like if we can move the ball on our defense ... then we should be able to do it against anyone in this league.”