When it happened you could almost hear the proverbial gasp of distress from Carolina Panthers fans all too familiar with untimely injuries to franchise players. At least that was the reaction from many fans who witnessed one of Carolina’s franchise running backs, Jonathan Stewart suffer a right ankle injury during an August 26th preseason meeting with the New York Jets.
Of course the immediate thoughts were for Stewart’s health, but then came the obvious concerns over whether or not the injury Stewart sustained during a meaningless preseason game would boast long term effects on his play for the upcoming season.
The injury would prove non-season threatening, but it would keep Stewart off the practice field for over a week, forcing the Panthers to make the wise decision to sit Stewart during their week one opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After sitting out week one all would be fine, right?
No, that would not be the case what so ever. The injury has lingered, causing Stewart to miss another game in week three’s Thursday night matchup against the New York Giants. In fact, one can’t help but imagine that Stewart’s ankle injury is still hindering his play on the field, even following being sidelined for two games.
His numbers support the argument for such conclusion. Stewart only has 25 carries in three games played for a grand total of 107 yards and one receiving touchdown. Not the kind of production the Panthers were hoping to get out of a guy who signed a five year extension with the team worth $36.5 million before the season began.
For whatever the reason for Stewart’s lack of production, the overall lack of production on the ground from the Panthers is beginning to raise a few eyebrows.
The Panthers inability to run the ball effectively with a legit three headed monster in Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert is very alarming, especially considering the success Carolina had running the football in 2011.
The poor running attack could be due to a myriad of reasons; those being a bad offense, bettered prepared defenses, or Stewart’s ankle. However, if Carolina wants to turn it around, then offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski needs to make sure Stewart touches the ball.
Carolina paid Stewart in the offseason to carry the load; going forward they must make it a priority to see that it happens. Though, if Stewart’s ankle is still an issue, and it appears it maybe, then Carolina has to find a formula to get both Williams and Tolbert moving the chains again.
If not, the Panthers will only find the hole they are in now growing deeper.
Robert Kester, Carolina Panthers Columnist. Contact @robertkester1.