Carolina’s offense improved immensely last year with the addition of Cam Newton. The running game has been solid for years, but the passing game lagged behind. DeAngelo WIlliams and Jonathan Stewart have anchored the running game together for the last 5 years and with Mike Goodson out of the picture, Mike Tolbert joins the group.
DeAngelo Williams is likely technically the starter for Carolina, but he and Stewart will likely see a similar workload. Williams is a great talent that has averaged at least 5 yards a carry every season besides his rookie year and injury shortened 2010 campaign. He gained 836 yards last season to lead the Panthers and did so on only 155 carries. On any other team, he is likely the feature back and annual 1000 yard rusher. The Panthers would rather preserve him and keep him injury free.
Jonathan Stewart is a rock solid “back up” running back that would also be a workhorse on most other teams. He may be a more complete running back than Williams with size at the goal line and a better pass receiver. This makes him the obvious 3rd round back and goal line back, but he will see plenty of time at all situations. He gained 761 on the ground last year as well as 413 through the air. He did this on the lowest amount of carries of his career. After signing a 5 year extension this offseason, don’t be surprised to see a bigger workload for Stewart. He’s currently sidelined with an ankle injury, but should play this Sunday.
Mike Tolbert came over from San Diego last year in a sort of puzzling move. He got plenty of time as Ryan Mathews back up and even started a few games. He finished with over 900 total yards, pretty evenly split between the ground and air. Tolbert should see time at FB, as well as HB, and even possibly stretched out as a TE type to take advantage of his receiving skills. Tolbert won’t be the same runner he was last year, but will still get some touches during game day.
Carolina’s three headed monster is quite impressive, and should help set the pace of the offense. Combined with Cam Newton last year, they gained over 2200 yards, with 700 or more each from WIlliams, Stewart, and Newton each. With Tolbert now on board, I expect to see Newton running less, well at least planned running. Either way, I expect a great year on the ground from each of these guys.