Panthers Running Back Quandry Thickens

There used to be a time where the Panthers ran the ball at will.  It did not matter what you did, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were not going to be stopped in the backfield.  But through 2 games of the 2010 season, we have yet to see the emergence of the rushing attack that has been called the best tandem in football.

Here's a little statistical breakdown:

DeAngelo Williams:  33 carries, 116 yards, 3.5 yards per carry, and 58 yards per game
Jonathan Stewart:  13 carries, 55 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 27.5 yards per game
Mike Goodson:  5 carries, 20 yards, 4.0 yards per carry, 10 yards per game
Total:  51 carries, 191 yards, 3.7 yards per carry, 95.5 yards per game

Those are not the numbers of our vaunted "deadly" rushing attack from the last 2 years.  Not only that, but we have passed the ball a combined 64 times between Clausen and Moore.  Now, part of the problem is playing from behind, but the stats are lying about one key factor, which is how our running backs have been used...more after the jump...

I am frustrated.  Truly I am.  All things aside, our running game should not be something where we are scratching our heads and wondering what on earth is going on here.  Granted, it's only the 3rd week of the season, but we are 16th in Rushing and we simply have not shown the dominance everyone in the league knows that we are capable and I want to explore why.

Perfect Passing Storm

It's no secret to anyone that the offensive game is a symbiotic relationship.  Superior rushing attacks open up more opportunities for big passing plays.  Those passing plays in turn force the defense to remain honest and respect the threat of the pass, opening more lanes to run the ball.  However, when your WRs can't get open and your QB can't get the ball to them, there is no threat through the air.  Without this threat, defenses are going to continuously stack the box and make it more difficult to run the ball.  That's just the way this offense is set up.  The change to Clausen at QB can have a positive effect here if he can capitalize on those offensive opportunities and our WRs step up to the plate.  Until then, our Rushing offense will never reach the potential we know it's capable of.


Will the real Right Tackle please stand up?

Who would have thought Otah would be so important?  Otah being banged up is somewhat perennial, which is why many of us didn't bat an eye when we knew he was going to miss a few games, but the difference has shown.  This stout mammoth of a man anchors the right side.  Schwartz may be capable of being a serviceable Right Guard, but until Otah comes back this is going to be a weakness.  Both Schwartz and Bernadeau have shown that they can be exploited.  This removes the cut back run which Williams is so famous for, because the right side collapses and defenders take that away from him.  We need Otah back, and soon.

Using Goodson

I honestly believe that one of the biggest problems we are facing is using Goodson too much.  As I recently commented in another thread, Goodson is not a threat to the defenses.  He does not command the respect that D.Will or J.Stew have shown.  He has great speed, but has not shown that jaw dropping, tackle breaking elusiveness that Williams has nor is he the power runner that Stewart is.  Goodson may have great hands, but because he does not instill fear in the defense, they are free to let someone pick up Goodson to protect against a screen.  Using him in this way is pure folly.  This is the play that Williams needs to be getting.  Granted, Williams may not have the better hands, but that doesn't matter.  And it's not like his hands are bad.  This is a man who has more All-Purpose Yards than anyone in NCAA history.  Not only that, but defenses respect his ability to make plays.  If we are going to run screens, Williams is the man who can best capitalize on these plays.  If our Running game is going to return to dominance, I'm sorry, but Goodson needs to take the back seat once again to the truly superior talent around him.

The goal line stand against the Bucs was proof.  They had Goodson try to bounce out to the outside.  That's Williams's forte, why wasn't this play ran with him instead?  Why was Goodson even in on this play in the first place?  Short yardage situations and we aren't going to Stewart?  What?

Using Stewart

My final point is one of concern.  Does J.Stew have an injury?  What's going on here?  I've raised this point before, but Stewart has seen less time in the game than Goodson, even against two teams that he obliterated last year.  But for two straight weeks, we've been left wondering where he is and why he isn't being used.  Goodson is not a substitute for Stewart anymore than he is for Williams.  There's no point in trying to make that comparison right now.  That goal line stand was proof.  He didn't come in until the last attempt on 4th down on an obvious, telegraphed run play.

In Conclusion...

Something has got to give here.  We are not designed to win games through the air, and with a rookie QB at the helm we desperately need to return to form here.  What are the Panthers without a running game?  They won't be successful, I can tell you that much...

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