After an initial season with the Panthers in 2012 that saw his production cut in half FB Mike Tolbert is finally making the kind of impact for the Panthers that he did back in 2010-11 for the Chargers. The key is mixing up how he is used and at some point getting him the ball in space. We saw the Panthers do just that on several occasion against the Bucs:
Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert proving his worth on field | NFL | Carolina Panthers
"When he gets the ball, I love it. He very rarely loses any yards out there, and he gets the crowd fired up. Those guys on defense for sure don't want to tackle him. He gives them a headache to say the least," Gross said. "DeAngelo was out, so other people had to pick up the load. It's a tribute to the depth of our backfield and really the depth of our offense when we can still have success with our starter out."
I have an example of giving defenders headaches in my up coming GIF by Quarter post. Tolbert is such a load and he can get so low with his pad level when taking on a tackler that they have a really hard time wrapping him up. And wrap him up you better do because otherwise he is going to roll over you:
Bowling ball: Running back Mike Tolbert, aka the "Bowling Ball," doesn't get enough credit for all he does as a leader, runner, blocker and receiver. But with leading rusher DeAngelo Williams (quad) out, perhaps a few took notice. He rushed nine times for 48 yards and caught three passes for 41 yards. His second effort was impossible to miss.
Just ask 49er rookie S Eric Reid about trying to deliver a knock out blow to Tolbert. Reid instead took the brunt of his and essentially knocked himself out trying to take Tolbert on directly.
Tolbert's importance had already ramped up before the Williams injury. The offensive line struggles required the backs to saty in and block. Then blocking TE Ben Hartsock went down with injury (though he should return at some point) opening up even more opportunity for Tolbert. Now he is seeing 60 to 70% of the offensive snaps as he is blocking, running inside and out and catching passes in the flat.
Oh the wonders of fantastic roster depth. Tolbert can fill so many rolls he is certainly a key to the Panthers offense down the stretch.