Running back Miles Sanders joined the Carolina Panthers this offseason as a free agent after a 2022 Pro Bowl year with the Philadelphia Eagles in which he rushed for 1,269 yards. That’s a healthy rushing output that he could potentially replicate in his first season as the lead back in Carolina. To put his 1,269 yards in perspective, that would be the fourth highest single season total in Panthers franchise history.
Carolina has produced just five 1,000-plus yard rushers in the franchise’s 28-year history - DeAngelo Williams, Christian McCaffrey, Stephen Davis, Jonathan Stewart, and a surprising throwback named Anthony Johnson. Here’s more about the exclusive group that Miles Sanders is looking to join:
Thousand yard seasons: 1,515 yards (2008), 1,117 yards (2009)
DeAngelo was a first round pick in 2006 and spent the first nine seasons of his career in Carolina. He had back-to-back 1,000-plus yard years in 2008 and 2009, his third and fourth NFL seasons. Williams’ 2008 campaign was spectacular as he set the Panthers all-time season rushing record with 1,515 yards, a record that still stands today, and led the NFL with 18 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl that year and was voted Second Team All-Pro.
Thousand yard seasons: 1,098 yards (2018), 1,387 (2019)
After being used sparingly running the ball as a first round rookie in 2017 (117 carries for 435 yards), McCaffrey eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in each of his next two seasons. In 2018 he put up a solid 1,098 rushing yards and made Second Team All–Pro. In 2019 he took things to a different level with 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns, securing First Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. But, to the eternal regret of Panthers fans, CMC later battled injuries and played just 10 games over the next two seasons before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers last year. His 1,387 rushing yards in 2019 ranks third in Panthers team history.
Thousand yard season: 1,444 yards (2003)
Davis was no stranger to 1,000-plus yard seasons before he joined the Panthers in 2003. In seven previous campaigns in Washington he had surpassed 1,300 yards three different times. The veteran spent three years in Carolina but it was during his first season (2003) when he made his mark with 1,444 rushing yards, second most in franchise history, and Pro Bowl nod. Davis will always have a special place in the hearts of Panthers fans for his role in powering the 2003 squad to an NFC championship and appearance in the Super Bowl.
Thousand yard season: 1,133 (2009)
Jonathan Stewart was a Panthers first round pick in 2008, just two years after they drafted DeAngelo Williams. Stewart and Williams largely split carries for the first seven years of J-Stew’s time in Carolina, which likely prolonged both of their careers but limited the number of 1,000-plus yard seasons they produced. While Stewart was a solid running back, he eclipsed the 1,000-yard threshold just once with the Panthers when he put up 1,133 yards in 2009. He came frustratingly close in 2015, his lone Pro Bowl season, with 989 yards in 13 games.
Thousand yard season: 1,120 yards (1996)
Johnson joined the Panthers midway through the Panthers inaugural season in 1995 and became the most unlikely 1,000-yard rusher in team history one year later. He had played five previous seasons before coming to Carolina in the middle of his sixth season in 1995. Over his first six years in the NFL he rushed for a total of just 1,169 yards. But then, miraculously, in 1996 he caught lightning in a bottle with 300 carries for 1,120 yards. But the magic quickly faded as over the next four seasons (1997-2000) he rushed for a total of just 677 yards. In one glorious outlier of a season Anthony Johnson became a 1,000-yard rusher, an honor few players ever attain.