With all the brooding over the future of Double Trouble, many folks have overlooked the potential prowess Mike Tolbert would bring to the Panthers' Offense. Whilst it would be sublime to have Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams locked up for the long term, It just isn't economically sensible, and this conjunction will force General Manager Marty Hurney to make some tough decisions in regards to the Running Back group. One name that has been linked to the Panthers has been Mike Tolbert, the former Charger, and Coastal Carolina Chanticleer.
Tolbert is an explosive back, bundled into a small package; measuring in at 5'9 243 lbs. Going into the 2012 Season, Tolbert will be 26 years old, a 5th year veteran with plenty of metaphorical tread left on his tires. Tolbert has spent his entire career in the Air Coryell Offense, and is already familiar with Coordinator Rob Chudzinski. It is not outside of the realm of possibility that Tolbert could choose to sign with the Panthers, and bring an impact to the Panther's Offense.
Entering the NFL in 2008, Tolbert was signed as an Undrafted Free Agent by the Chargers. Tolbert would start 7 games in 2008 as the Fullback in San Diego, registering 13 rushes for 37 yards, as well as 13 receptions for 171 yards and 1 TD. Next season Tolbert would record playing time at RB, accruing 25 rushes for 148 yards and 1 TD, in addition to 17 receptions for 192 yards, and 3 TD's. However with the departure of Ladanian Tomlinson, Tolbert would see an expanded role in 2010, compiling 182 rushes for 785 yards and 11 TD's, as well as 25 receptions for 216 yards. With his role established, Tolbert registered 121 rushes for 490 yards and 8 TD's, including 54 receptions for 433 yards and 2 TD's in 2011. With SD's investment into Ryan Mathews, Tolbert's carries diminished, as the Chargers pushed for more playing time for Mathews, ultimately running Tolbert out of town.
Tolbert is an explosive back, possessing much speed and quickness for a man of his stature. Displaying good field vision, Tolbert hits holes with force, rarely allowing a single tackler to bring him down. Tolbert is also versatile, capable of playing FB, picking up tough yards as the short yardage/goal line back, catching passes out of the backfield, and taking carries as a running back.
Tolbert's biggest strength lies in his ability to catch passes. Tolbert is an excellent receiver, endowed with great hands, and the ability to manufacture Yards after the Catch. As we witnessed last season, the screen game was an important facet of the Panthers' Offense, helping to place the ball into the hands of some of the Panthers most talented players. Moreover, checking the ball down to an RB was equally effective, as often opposing teams would drop into zone coverages, locking down the Panthers WR's/TE's, forcing Cam to dump the ball off to a Running Back, placing the Panther's RB's into open space, allowing them to pick up key first downs.
In the Panther's Offense we could also expect to see Tolbert functioning as the Goal Line Back, taking over the position held by Cam Newton last year. While Cam is very effective at picking 1 yard TD's, it would be vacuous to let our Franchise QB take unnecessary hits from an unprotected position with regularity. Tolbert could definitely pick up dirty yards inside the five yard line, with the lower body strength of a bull, Tolbert is more than capable of making a key first down/Touchdown.
Mike Tolbert: The Thunder Bolt (via TheMrBoltz2)
One thing that endears me to Tolbert is his running style: Tolbert runs in a violent manner, not avoiding contact, rather than seeking it out, meanwhile he has a certain shiftiness that allows him to out maneuver a Linebacker or Safety. Tolbert is able to run through a defender, or run past the aforementioned defender, an uncommon quality amongst NFL Running Backs.
Tolbert would be a natural fit in the Panthers' Offense, with his spectacular receiving abilities, his potentiality to pick up tough yards, and his unique intangibles, as well as his familiarity with the offense. Not to mention his suave touchdown dances.