Carolina Panthers Should Seek Higher Return on Running Investment

By Thomas Emerick
John David Mercer- USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers enter the 2013 season with a relatively high amount of cap room tied up in their running back corps of DeAngelo Williams ($8.2 million), Jonathan Stewart ($3.015 million) and Mike Tolbert ($2.025 million). Combine that with the roughly $6 million due to a read-option utilizing quarterback Cam Newton, and you would expect an offensive attack with so much emphasis on run-game components to head this category.

Carolina, however, ranked ninth in both rushing offense and yards per attempt in 2012, and the offense sits at a decent-yet-unspectacular 12th in total offense. While the franchise has come a long way from its NFL-worst 2-14 campaign in 2010, the 13-19 record in two seasons under Ron Rivera still doesn’t quite show the world that the Panthers have arrived.

A vogue pick to win the NFC South last season, Carolina sputtered to a 1-6 start before saving face down the stretch to the tune of a 5-1 finish. It’s hard to pin this rough start on the running game when looking at 219- and 199-yard performances in Week 2 and Week 4, but they also show their bipolar nature in sub-100-yard showings in weeks 1, 3 and 5. With a running threat like Newton at quarterback, who did tally 741 yards on the ground in 2012, it seems 100 would be more of a baseline for this offensive attack.

The Panthers would pass the century mark rushing in nine of the final 11 games as Carolina went 6-5. Perhaps this trend can continue and move Carolina closer to justifying such a huge allocation to the ground game in an increasingly pass-happy league.

Thomas Emerick is a Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEmerick, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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