The Atlanta Falcons don’t necessarily have to run the ball to be successful against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, but if the do run the ball, it will be a whole lot easier to then throw the ball. Using the run to set up the pass is not a new idea in the NFL or football in general, and while the Falcons are shifting to a pass-oriented attack, we may see a little more of the run against Carolina.
The reason for that is because the Panthers run defense isn’t particularly good right now. At defensive tackle, typically the first line of defense against the run, is especially porous. The starting tackles are Dwan Edwards and Ron Edwards, a very underwhelming tackle duo who the Falcons will be inclined to run the ball at.
At the linebacker level, the Panthers have a player who was a stud before his torn Achilles injury, but who has been very disappointing so far this season in Jon Beason. Beason is a fine player and before his injury was a two time All-Pro middle linebacker, but he certainly hasn’t been playing like it recently.
When the tackles and the middle linebacker aren’t very good or are going through a period of down production, they tend to give up significant yardage to the opposition. Offenses have averaged 139 yards per game rushing through the first three games of the season. Each of the teams has been able to impose their will on the Panthers by first running the ball, and then throwing the ball very effectively.
That’s not to say that Jon Beason doesn’t all of a sudden figure it all out, that the tackles don’t start playing very well, or that rookie Luke Kuechly doesn’t stop over pursuing the ball carrier and starts really bringing him down. But up to this point, it hasn’t happened.
Also take into account that the number of offensive weapons that the Falcons have. Carolina is going to line up in a bunch of 2-deep safety defenses to prevent the pass, and the Falcons will need to gash them with runs to bring the safety back into the box. When that happens, and the Falcons can play-action off of it, watch out. The offense will keep on rolling.