Good news has been in rather short supply for the Carolina Panthers offense this offseason.
Left tackle Jordan Gross retired. Quarterback Cam Newton had ankle surgery. The wide receiver corps had to be completely rebuilt after it was gutted in free agency.
However, it looks like the Panthers may finally have caught a break, at least if last week's game with the Kansas City Chiefs was any indication.
In that game running back Jonathan Stewart looked as good as he has in a very long time, gaining 26 yards and scoring two touchdowns on four carries.
The 27-year-old back, who has missed 17 games over the past two seasons with an assortment of injuries, recently told Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer (via the Miami Herald) that he feels better than he has in a long time.
"My run motion coming out the gate, making cuts, all that stuff, is as fluid as I've been in a while, which is good," Stewart said. "I don't have to second-guess anything."
Center Ryan Kalil saw that in evidence against the Chiefs, according to The Associated Press (via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com):
When he does get back out there you realize why he is so special and why you keep giving him chances to come back. I've played so many games with him and watched so much film, you see a guy that people want to keep fighting and fighting for. I think he is such a huge part of our running game and it's great to have him out there.
Given all the questions facing the passing game in 2014, if the Panthers are going to make it back to the playoffs this year, the team may be forced to lean on its ground game even more than usual.
A healthy Stewart would be a huge boost in that regard, making it important that he keep his positive momentum rolling right along against the New England Patriots.