Panthers Positional Focus: Running Back

What to expect from the Panthers backfield in 2017.

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As we inch closer to the start of training camp on July 26, we’ll take a look at each positional group for the Panthers. First up, the running backs.

2016 Rushing Statistics

Player ATT YDS YDS/ATT TD
Jonathan Stewart 218 824 3.8 9
Fozzy Whittaker 57 265 4.6 0
Cameron Artis-Payne 36 144 4 2

Jonathan Stewart proved last season that he can still be an effective running back when healthy. His power running style has taken a toll on his body throughout the years, however, as Stewart has not played a full 16 game season since 2011. Cameron Artis-Payne has a similar running style to Stewart, but the 2015 fifth-round pick was a healthy scratch for all but three games last season. Fozzy Whittaker served as the change-of-pace running back for the Panthers, mainly on third downs. He also can be an effective receiving option out of the backfield. Cam Newton will always contribute to the team’s rushing attack as well, but the Panthers hope he takes fewer hits than he did last year, so they won’t look to lean on Newton in the run game quite as much.

Overall, the 2016 Panthers rushing attack was average at best.

Panthers Draft Christian McCaffrey at Eighth Overall

General Manager Dave Gettleman wanted to upgrade the team’s rushing attack this offseason, and inject some explosiveness into it. The perfect guy to do exactly that fell right into their laps with the eighth pick in April’s Draft. Christian McCaffrey was one of the most explosive players in the nation during his time at Stanford. He owns the record for most all-purpose yards in a single season with his 2015 total of 3,864.

Expectations

Look for Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula to be creative in using Christian McCaffrey. While his carries may average between 10-15 per game, that does not include his contributions in the receiving game. McCaffrey can be lined up in the backfield, in the slot, and even out wide. He is a big play threat every time he steps on the field. Shula will look to draw up plays that get the ball to McCaffrey in space, so he can make defenders miss. His agile running style is the perfect complement to Stewart’s power running, and the two should combine to form one of the more feared rushing duos in the league.

53-Man Roster Prediction: Running Back (3)

Jonathan Stewart
Christian McCaffrey (R)
Cameron Artis-Payne

Fozzy Whittaker played significantly more than Artis-Payne last season, but he has a similar playing style to McCaffrey. The Panthers also drafted Ohio State wide receiver/running back Curtis Samuel in the second round, and while Samuel is expected to be primarily a receiver, Shula can also draw up certain plays where he carries the ball. Both McCaffrey and Samuel are smaller in size, so it would make sense for the Panthers to keep another bigger back on the roster, especially with Jonathan Stewart’s injury history. Jalen Simmons is a possible candidate for the Panthers practice squad.

 

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