Panther fans remember the good old days when DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart started calling themselves “Double Trouble,” and for good reason. Both Williams and Stewart ran for over 1,000 yards in a single season and dominated the run game like no other dual running backs in the league.
But things have changed, and the Panthers' run game hasn’t been the same since the 2009 season.
Jeff Otah may have been a good part of double trouble’s success but Otah has had some issues with injuries over the last couple seasons. And with Otah's injuries, Williams' and Stewart's stats were in decline.
The Panthers are now under a new head coach and offensive coordinator and it may be taking Ron Rivera and Rob Chudzinski sometime to figure out how to utilize both Williams and Stewart, as we saw in the 2011 season. But it may not be long until they do figure it out.
With the 40th pick overall in the second round, the Panthers drafted a guy by the name of Amini Silatolu from Midwestern State. This draft surprised a lot of people, as many analysts believed the Panthers needed to draft players to improve their defense, not their offense.
Those who have seen video clips of Silatolu could understand why any coach and/or GM would be interested in signing him. Silatolu is explosive and looks like he plays every down like it's the last down. Such characteristics are why I believe calling Silatolu aggressive is a bit of an understatement.
Rivera had this to say about Silatolu:
He'll drive a guy into a pile and just keep driving, and all of a sudden that pile will start to go forward. That's a nasty finisher.
Some analysts, like Todd McShay, predict that Silatolu will start at the beginning of next season, and there are some indications that Rivera also thinks this too.
He dominated the guy he lined up against. That makes you think it's going to be a fairly easy transition to our level – not easy, but fairly easy.
Keep in mind that Rivera had also said before the draft that Hurney and he don’t plan on drafting a player who can’t contribute to the team right away. In other words, they wanted to draft a potential starter, not another guy to add to the practice squad. With that said, Silatolu may have been drafted to be a starter.
The signing of Silatolu will definitely help Rivera’s plan to bring back the run game. The Panthers staff has already made it clear that they don’t want to lose members of double trouble. The first sign of this was when they re-signed Williams to massive contract extension.
This contract has had its criticisms though; some believe that William’s performance last year may not have been worth the money he’s making now. Nevertheless, it seems that the Panthers are not willing to admit that just yet.
In addition, despite the trade rumors and some public opinion, both Hurney and Rivera have been unwilling to trade Stewart after acquiring fullback Mike Tolbert. Many believed Tolbert signing was a sign that one of the Panthers running backs were on their way out. But I don't believe this is the case. Just because you sign a full back doesn't mean you want to get rid of one of your running backs.
So what all this means is that Hurney and Rivera are committed to bring the powerful run-game back to Carolina. And it may be time to do so. Tolbert’s signing, drafting Silatolu and Rivera and Hurney’s unwillingness to trade Stewart means that Newton’s run game will probably be limited this coming season.
Newton rushed for over 700 yards last season and 14 touchdowns. These numbers were great and helped put the Panthers in a position to play some close games. But Newton has also showed fans what his pass game is like, and it’s pretty impressive as well.
In a passing league—where the last Super Bowl champs were quarterbacks like Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady—it seems that the Panthers will need Newton to play more like one of these quarterbacks and less like a running back.
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