The Carolina Panthers finished the 2014 season ranked 26th in the league in red zone offense.
Wednesday morning, they picked up where they left off.
Carolina’s first-team defense dominated the first-team offense in the first look at red zone drills this training camp at Wofford College. But there was more than meets the eye on Wofford’s practice field.
First, it was the Panthers’ first day of red-zone installation. Second, it wasn’t like the Panthers were going up against some pushover offense. Carolina’s defense is one of only three defenses in the league to be ranked in the top 10 each of the past three seasons.
“We don’t install to play our defense. We don’t install to play against what we see in practice,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “We install the same way we go through our installation process both in OTAs and minicamp and now here. Day 1 install is Day 1 install.”
Red-zone drills are usually tailored to fit the week’s game plan against a certain team. The offense Wednesday was more focused on themselves and getting plays on tape, Olsen said.
“Sometimes comes early in camp with installation where you’re trying to get plays on tape and try to get plays run,” Olsen said. “And obviously when you’re playing against a good defense it’s hard enough. But we’ll be fine.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera noted the defense did far more than the offense as Cam Newton and company failed do much of anything in the six or seven plays.
“One of the things that’s a little bit different is on the defensive side we’re far ahead. We really are,” Rivera said. “(Defensive coordinator) Sean (McDermott) just picked up right where we left off in OTAs and minicamp where offensively we’re pretty basic. We didn’t game plan anything. We tried to make things happen out there. There were some good things, but mostly we saw that from the defensive side.”
Last year the Panthers scored touchdowns on just 48.1 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line. Only one playoff team – Arizona – had a lower percentage last year.
“It’s pretty clear to everybody, we don’t pretend that we were very efficient in the red zone last year,” Olsen said. “We settled for way too many field goals. We’ve got to score more touchdowns.
“We’re as good as there is in the league moving the ball down into the red zone – length of scoring drives – every year, but we’ve got to do a better job scoring touchdowns and our scoring drives ending with seven instead of three.”