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July 22, 2010

Countdown to Panthers camp -- 7 days

    This is the first in a series of position-by-position looks at the Panthers as they prepare for the first day of training camp practice on July 29.


    Might as well start with the Panthers running backs, because trust me, as the series goes on, the news won't stay this good.

    In DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers have arguably two of the NFL's top 10 backs. In fact, there's a legitimate argument as to which is better here. Remember, it was Stewart who led the Panthers in rushing last year (1,133 yards), when Williams (1,117) finished the season hurt. And while Stewart gets dinged for rarely practicing, he hasn't missed an NFL game yet.

    That they were the first duo in league history to each top the 1,100-yard mark was impressive, but perhaps not as much so as their relationship.

    The fact they get along so well with each other is a boon to the Panthers, because lesser duos have disintegrated over jealousy, both coveting the ball, thinking they could do more with it.

    To their credit, Williams and Stewart have figured out the big secret, that each is good for the other's longevity. Between them, they could continue to top 2,000 yards per season as long as they're together, even though either could be a 1,500-yard back (or more) alone.

    Frankly, the Panthers will rely on the duo more than ever. Even if incumbent QB Matt Moore holds onto the starting job, there are limited options in the passing game and they're going to have to run well to remain competitive. As long as Williams and Stewart stay healthy — and all indications are that they should be 100 percent from offseason surgeries — there's a floor that the Panthers shouldn't crash through.

    Their backups are a clear step down — most would be — but both Mike Goodson and Tyrell Sutton have unique qualities that make them valuable.

    Goodson's the electrifying open-field guy, who enchants coaches with his ability to break runs once he's in space. Sutton, who did a stint as the world's littlest fullback last year, is a tougher inside runner, and they guy they had pegged to pair with Williams if Stewart wasn't able to make it through last season with his Achilles problems.

    Because of the roster crunch when it comes time to pick the 53 (brought on by the need for extra kickers and to cover injury thinned spots), both Goodson and Sutton will need to do more. One of them, preferably Goodson, ought to be the kick returner or otherwise contribute on special teams.

    They're carrying a fifth tailback at the moment, Josh Vaughan, but he's here to fill out lines in practice because the first four are entrenched.

    Fullback presents a bit of a dilemma, and a clear look at how the philosophical decision to go young (and cheap) is hitting the Panthers.

    Veteran Brad Hoover was only beginning to be recognized as one of the league's top lead-blockers, when the confluence of age, expense and injury caught up with him. Hoover played in 11 games last year but didn't finish all of those, and the team was concerned they could no longer count on him physically. 

    That leaves things to 2009 fourth-round pick Tony Fiammetta, who was predictably in over his head last year. In terms of size and strength, he's well prepared to take over, but Hoover learned his lessons over a hard decade and Fiammetta can't be expected to have them down yet. 

    Undrafted rookie Rashawn Jackson (Virginia) is the other fullback in camp. He's a different type player (less of a pure blocker, a better runner and pass-catcher). The Panthers have long had a soft spot for do-it-all backs (think Nick Goings), and if he can impress on special teams, Jackson will have a chance, albeit slim, to hang around.

— Darin Gantt

Posted by Observer Sports on July 22, 2010 at 01:06 PM | Permalink


Shocking. The Observer reporters come out of the hole they've been hiding in all summer to bash the Panthers with the opening line, "Might as well start with the Panthers running backs, because trust me, as the series goes on, the news won't stay this good."

Did it take you guys all offseason to come up with that? I could count on one hand how many articles you've written since January. I get more news from PFT than the Observer. Readers, do yourself a favor and read PFT or Steve Reed. The Observer will have the same stories as they do, only five or six hours later.

Posted by: Dan | Jul 22, 2010 1:59:50 PM

Hey Dan! Go and read PFT then and quit your whining!

Posted by: Jrauhauser | Jul 22, 2010 2:31:02 PM

Well honestly the news isnt good after the RB's. But... its not all that bad either. We have all gotten comfortable with the names and faces during the Fox/Hurney era. It was just time to infuse a little bit of youth and energy into a lethargic franchise. I for one am guardedly optimistic. It could be a great year, a good year or an absolute waste of a month of sundays. Either way i will watch.

Posted by: BIGCAT83 | Jul 22, 2010 2:37:31 PM

Im with you 110% BIGCAT83.

Posted by: Jrauhauser | Jul 22, 2010 3:58:36 PM

Thats right! 7 days until July 29th ,which is my birthday!
It also happens to be the anniversery to the exact day of when the PANTHERS played their first game ever against the Jacksonville Jaguars.Of course it was a pre-season game,but it was still their first game ever in uniforms, Wow,its been along time hasnt it?

Posted by: GhostOfSparta | Jul 22, 2010 5:51:49 PM

What is wrong with the first sentence? It is fact, we have a good running game, the rest of the team is in shambles. 5-11 at best, and I will take all bets to that affect.

Posted by: Long_year_for_us_real_fans | Jul 22, 2010 6:09:23 PM

What will your name be next season? Us_real_fans_knew_they_would_win?

Posted by: MrBernz | Jul 22, 2010 7:19:47 PM

There is nothing wrong with the first sentence of the article. Running back is our best position by far, and other than the O-line it's really our only area of certainty.

Posted by: Jerad | Jul 22, 2010 7:34:14 PM

I agree with Jerad. I can't name a team in the league has 2 of the top 7 or 8 players at one position.

Posted by: Huge | Jul 22, 2010 8:15:14 PM

the panthers will win the superbowl this year...now tell a friend and prepare for greatness.

Posted by: slick | Jul 22, 2010 9:05:37 PM

Bigcat, in a nutshell, Hellz ya!


Posted by: SYRPIS | Jul 22, 2010 10:28:13 PM

Two of the top 8 at their position? Put the crack pipe down. They're the best tandem by far but both are not in the top 8.

Posted by: Homosaywhat? | Jul 23, 2010 12:30:25 AM

I'm not saying they'll have the highest number of yards, you put Jonathan Stewart in for Michael Turner or Frank Gore on those teams and he'll have more yards than them. This guy rates them both in the top 7.


Posted by: Huge | Jul 23, 2010 8:37:32 AM

Could we stop with the if Moore holds on to the starting job crap already? Fox isn't going to pull him unless he melts down or is injured. Can you see Fox starting an untested rookie? Seriously?

So can we stop hanging on Clausens jock until he at least does something in real NFL game? I mean seriously Gannt did he sleep with your wife? Does he owe you money? What is the deal with the constant running down of the only QB on our roster that has won an NFL game? Enough already.

Posted by: John | Jul 23, 2010 10:55:20 AM

Amen John. I agree that we have to look at the season with the expectation that Moore is the guy. That isn't such a bad thing. In the last five games of the season (games he started), he had the highest QB rating in the NFL. He has good pocket presence and a strong arm. What we have today is a season of great uncertanity. It makes things a lot more exciting. We could be really good, or we could be really bad, but more than any season I can remember, we just don't know. I predict a slow start and strong finish with being a bubble team come playoff time. Our schedule isn't nearly as tough as last year. That has a big impact. I can't wait!

Posted by: Sean P. | Jul 23, 2010 11:56:36 AM

As opposed to an untested player in his fourth year, John?

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jul 23, 2010 1:00:32 PM

I guess the two are in the top 8

Posted by: MBPantfan | Jul 23, 2010 5:30:07 PM

I love how people believe that they can determine before the season starts just how tough any given schedule is. In truth the NFL is much like trading stock. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Sometimes it isn't even a good indicator. Even in the middle of the season a team that is looking like a world beater can trip over their shoelaces and lose it all or a bunch of bottom feeders can rear up on their hind legs and go on to make the playoffs. That is what I love about this game, the "any given sunday" factor.

Posted by: Brian W | Jul 23, 2010 6:46:46 PM

Brian W, you make a good point, but one must have some sort of a baseline to base analysis off of. Nothing from the past is 100% indicater of the future, but it often gives some indication. This is why we study history, so we can prepare for the future. But, you are right to a point.

Posted by: Sean P. | Jul 23, 2010 11:36:54 PM

the panthers play tampa twice,st louis,cleveland,seattle,arizona,without warner,dansby,boldin.that is 6 wins right there.there is no way any of these teams are going to be good.its a pretty easy schedule.

Posted by: raydaz | Jul 24, 2010 10:26:23 AM

Take a pill, Long Year..........

Posted by: Nasty704 | Jul 25, 2010 9:51:42 PM

In a nutshell, it's all about how we use the talent that we have. When we lost players due to injury in'09', these same guys came in, and stepped up. So give our RB's some slack. ALL OF THEM..

Posted by: Nasty704 | Jul 25, 2010 10:01:33 PM

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