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Logical to allow Newton, Gabbert to build on spread success

  • By Vic Carucci NFL.com
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A quarterback who spent all or most of his college career in a simplified, spread-style offense doesn't necessarily have to be at any sort of disadvantage in making the transition to the NFL.

One former NFL coach who enjoyed considerable success with such a scheme thinks in-coming rookies such as Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert will eventually have a chance to thrive with skills they developed while often making plays on the fly.

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Ted Marchibroda, who was the Buffalo Bills' offensive coordinator as Jim Kelly ran a no-huddle spread attack called "The K-Gun" that helped the team reach four straight Super Bowls, doesn't see any reason for Newton or Gabbert to change what they do for the NFL. In fact, Marchibroda predicts that the teams that drafted them -- the Carolina Panthers, who made Newton the top overall pick, and the Jacksonville Jaguars, who selected Gabbert 10th overall -- will try and tap into what the rookies do best rather than force them to conform to something else.

Working mainly from the shotgun formation, Newton and Gabbert have become accustomed to getting a wider perspective of the defense and are generally able to make the quicker reads they need to within the tight scope of their respective playbooks. When things break down, they have the option to run, and usually the room to do so because of the spread alignment.

Marchibroda says Newton and Gabbert can still rely on a good portion of what allowed them to be elite draft picks.

"I think they're going to stay with it; it's such a great asset," Marchibroda told me during a recent interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "Our offense (in Buffalo) was basic, fundamental, and then we would add to it as the season went along ... We didn't have a hundred plays in the ballgame. We tried to keep it somewhere in that 25 range, so that (Kelly) knew why he was doing everything and he would have to study during the course of the week to know exactly when to do it."

Critics have said that Newton and Gabbert will struggle when trying to decipher complex NFL defenses that require them to be more thorough with their pre-snap reads and route progressions. However, Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn't think that will be a problem for Newton.

"I don't know if people give him enough credit for the success they had as far as Auburn's offense was concerned in terms of his decision-making process," Rivera said during "NFL Total Access" on Monday. "We went back and watched all of his throws, all of his runs, and we tried to look at the different types of decisions that he had to make and how he made them. We felt very comfortable with that."

Even if the Panthers and Jaguars keep their offenses simple that doesn't eliminate the need for grooming. As Marchibroda pointed out, a key reason for Kelly's success in the K-Gun was spending two seasons in a more conventional offense. Once Marchibroda and coach Marv Levy realized that Kelly was at his best while working at a faster pace, they made the switch.

The Panthers and Jaguars will need to gauge when the proper time is to turn Newton and Gabbert loose in spread attacks.

"I think it becomes a question of how soon they can read defenses, how soon they can learn pass protection," Marchibroda said. "And if they have that quick mind, it brings those two things to the fore quicker."

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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