A big reason for the Carolina Panthers shocking season in 2016 was the play of Cam Newton. He went from MVP to mediocre in the span of a year, causing the entire team to struggle offensively. Another part of Carolinas regression was the lack of playmakers at skill positions.
The Panthers did their best to address that need this offseason, drafting both Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. McCaffrey, the eighth overall pick, will certainly get plenty of chances at running back, all at the expense of Jonathan Stewart. The veteran back will see his carries shrink due to the addition of McCaffrey, but hes doing his best to ignore that disconcerting trend.
"Stop talking about that. Who cares?" Stewart said, via ESPN. "We want to win the Super Bowl, right? That's the bottom line. It's not about people getting carries. It's not about people getting catches or touchdowns. It's about what can you contribute to get us to the Super Bowl."
Stewart has been the lead back in Carolina since DeAngelo Williams departed for Pittsburgh, but for years prior to that point, he was accustomed to sharing touches in the backfield. Hell endure a similar situation in 2017 with McCaffrey, but Stewart will still get his share of touches, particularly in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
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Itll also afford him the chance to catch his breath on the sideline every now and then. Some of Stewarts best seasons came when he was sharing the backfield with Williams. In 2009, he rushed for 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns both career-highs. It was the only season in which he rushed for more than 1,000 yards, which is surprising considering it was a split workload.
Ron Rivera hasnt revealed how the Panthers will divvy up the touches in the backfield, but both players will have specific assignments and roles on offense.
"Jonathan will play his role and he'll do the things we do with him," Rivera said. "Christian will have his role and we'll do things accordingly as we go through it. I'm not going to tell you specifically how we'll do it. But that's how those guys will roll."
The Panthers should be much more explosive in 2017 thanks to a few key additions, one of which being McCaffrey. He has the home run-hitting ability that Stewart lacks, and the receiving ability that Newton can use to his advantage.