Now that DeAngelo Williams has restructured his contract, it is a safe bet to say that he will be in Carolina for the foreseeable future. But what does this mean for the rest of the running backs on the roster? Here are my best guesses at what’ll end up happening:
If he’s healthy, Jonathan Stewart will be the starter at the running back position. I expect Stewart to get the bulk of the carries in the Panthers more traditional rush offense.
DeAngelo Williams will have a reduced role in the Panthers offense, but he will still be the top backup at the running back spot. I expect him to get five to ten carries a game as a true change of pace back.
Kenjon Barner will not be getting too many snaps on offense this season, as I expect him to mostly contribute on special teams. However, he might occasionally be used on third downs as a pass catching threat out of the backfield.
Mike Tolbert will stay at the fullback position. I think he’ll mostly be used on short yardage situations and near the goal line.
Armond Smith flashed during the 2012 preseason, and got some work on special teams late in the regular season, but I think his chances of making the Panthers roster this season are now almost zero. With the addition of Kenjon Barner in the Draft, it makes Smith expendable, as they are both similar, shiftier-style runners. Also, because of the glut of talent at the running back position, I don’t expect him to be signed back to the practice squad, either.
Poole was one of the top UDFA running backs after the 2012 Draft, and he repeatedly impressed in training camp last August. Unlike Armond Smith, Tauren Poole is more of a north/south running back, which is why I think he sticks onto the Panthers practice squad for one more year.
This is what my final depth chart looks like for the backfield:
1. Jonathan Stewart
2. DeAngelo Williams
3. Kenjon Barner
1. Mike Tolbert
Tauren Poole (Practice Squad)
So, what does your new backfield depth chart look like? Feel free post your own below.