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2013 Carolina Panthers Position Review: Running Back

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Today we’ll take a look at the performances of the players in the Carolina Panthers backfield, which is one of the most expensive in the NFL.

DeAngelo Williams

Rushing Statistics: 201 carries, 843 yards (4.2 YPC), 3 TD’s

Receiving Statistics: 26 catches, 333 yards (12.8 YPR), 1 TD, 1 fumble

DeAngelo Williams ran the ball very well for most of the season as the lead running back in the Panthers crowded backfield. Although Williams no longer possesses the elite breakaway speed he used to have, he was still effective as the Panthers primary ball carrier with a respectable 4.2 yards per carry.

Williams was also a pleasant surprise in the passing game this season, as he had a career high 333 receiving yards this season. He proved to be very valuable in the screen game; he took a screen pass 72 yards for a touchdown Week 15 against the New York Jets, and gained 58 yards on another screen pass Week 17 against the Falcons.

DeAngelo Williams is slowing down as a running back, but he is still very elusive in space as a pass catcher. Williams will probably have fewer carries and more catches next season, as Mike Shula will try to build on the late season success of using Williams as a weapon in the passing game.

Grade: B

Jonathan Stewart

Rushing Statistics: 48 carries, 180 yards (3.8 YPC), 1 fumble

Receiving Statistics: 7 catches, 44 yards (7.3 YPR)

Jonathan Stewart only played in six games this season, as he spent the first seven weeks on the PUP list recovering from an ankle injury that he suffered in 2012. Stewart was visibly rusty in his first few games back, as he made several poor decisions when running with the football. Unfortunately, Stewart tore his MCL after making a 16 yard catch in the Panthers Week 14 game against the New Orleans Saints. The torn MCL effectively ended his disappointing 2013 season.

Grade: C

Kenjon Barner

Rushing Statistics: 6 carries, 7 yards (1.2 YPC)

Receiving Statistics: 2 catches, 7 yards (3.5 YPR)

Kenjon Barner was active for eight games this season, and had only 23 snaps on offense. Unless he significantly shows more potential than any of the other Panthers running backs ahead of him on the depth chart, expect to see much of the same next season – basically, nothing. Kenjon Barner will purely serve as a depth piece on the Panthers roster until at least the 2015 season, when DeAngelo Williams and/or Jonathan Stewart will probably be cut.

Grade: None - not enough snaps to evaluate

Mike Tolbert

Rushing Statistics: 101 carries, 361 yards (3.6 YPC), 5 TD’s

Receiving Statistics: 27 catches, 184 yards (11.5 YPR), 2 TD’s

The numbers might not show it, but Mike Tolbert was the best overall back on the Panthers roster this season. He proved to be an effective downhill runner, and was an excellent short yardage and red zone weapon. He also made the most of his limited targets in the passing game.

Something that has been overlooked with Tolbert this season has been his pass blocking ability. On passing plays, Tolbert was frequently asked to stay in the pocket to help protect Cam Newton by double teaming defensive ends or picking up blitzing linebackers. The numbers are quite fascinating; of the 336 pass plays he was on the field, he was asked to stay and block 121 times. Of those 121 snaps, Tolbert only gave up 11 total pressures, including just one sack.

Grade: A-