Carolina Panthers: Running Game Must Improve Against Jacksonville
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Two years ago, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart (aptly nicknamed "Double Trouble") were the best running back tandem in the league, becoming the first teammates to rush for over 1,100 yards in the same season.
So far this season, "Double Trouble" have only caused headaches for Cam Newton and the Panthers offense. While the rookie quarterback has been rewriting the record books, the normally reliable backfield has combined for 74 yards and just over 2.4 yards per carry.
But the problem stems deeper than just the backs.
The offensive line has already been shuffled around due to injury. Guard Geoff Schwartz went on injured reserve list before the season began, while tackle Jeff Otah played the Cardinals with an injury and missed the Packers game with a concussion. His replacement was undrafted rookie Byron Bell.
Otah's possible return this week would be a much needed boost against Jacksonville.
New offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's play-calling needs adjustment as well. While I give him credit for Newton's stellar start, he's throwing the ball way too much (83 attempts); only Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers, Drew Brees have thrown more than Newton.
The Panthers scored five minutes in against Green Bay and led the entire first half. But even then, they threw more times on the opening drive than they ran the entire first half; that's unacceptable.
So besides more carries, what else can they do to get the ground game going against Jacksonville? They averaged four yards a carry on runs from the shotgun against Green Bay, so more of that could work well.
Another thing I'd like to see is both Williams and Stewart in the backfield. Chudzinski hinted at the possibility of two-back formations during training camp. but we've yet to see it this season. Having both backs on the field may be what the Panthers need to jump start the run offense.
The Jaguars' defense doesn't have any household names, but they've been great against the run. After holding Chris Johnson to 24 yards in Week 1, they held the Jets to 3.2 yards per rush last week.
Though the Panthers are favored by most to win this week, the Jacksonville run defense is certainly not a pushover. But no matter the outcome on Sunday, Carolina's ground game must improve.
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