Coming into training camp, Mike Tolbert may have been one of the more questionable offseason acquisitions. Carolina had a stable of backs that could already be considered the league's best and then there was Cam Newton who set the record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback at 14.
There probably should not have been much commotion about the signing to begin with as the Panthers signed him for $2.1 million per year, which is well below what one would expect a running back to make. Also, it was reported on the Panthers home page (through NFL.com) that Rivera thought of Tolbert as a fullback.
With the opening game against Tampa Bay on the horizon, few people are questioning Tolbert and a big first game could silence the critics for good.
Tolbert is a bruiser that can also catch the ball and block. More importantly, he shares many similar characteristics of Jonathan Stewart, who happens to be injured again.
The Associated Press (via The Washington Times) reported that Ron Rivera is optimistic Stewart will play against Tampa. Stewart is trying to recover from an ankle injury suffered against the New York Jets.
Good news, Panthers fans, Tolbert is on the team and is ready to rumble. Because he and Stewart are similar, Tolbert can fill the role while Stewart recovers back to 100 percent and the Panthers will not have to worry about loss in production.
If Tolbert shows that he can handle the load like he did in the preseason, Carolina will no longer think that it has a three-headed monster, but the Panthers will know they have a three-headed monster and the only thing that would stop this trio would be the end zone.
These role players may not be the focus of the team, but each one has a chance to take himself and the team to the next level.