Following the 2008 season, the Carolina Panthers had arguably the best running back duo in the NFL, with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart rushing for a combined 2,351 yards and 28 touchdowns. Since that season, however, the duo has each had only one 1,000 yard campaign, both in 2009. Williams has seen his touches plummet in the past few seasons, averaging 138 rushes over the past three seasons after averaging 245 rushes between 2008 and 2009. Jonathan Stewart, on the other hand, has been hampered by injuries, including starting 2013 on the PUP list where he will miss a minimum of five games.
While Stewart’s injury does put the status of “Double Trouble” in jeopardy, the duo is not dead just yet. Williams is more than capable of having a breakout season, seeing as he has averaged 4.9 yards per carry in his career, and should also see more carries behind a healthy offensive line. Ryan Kalil, one of the best centers in the league, is returning from injury, and the team also re-signed veteran guard Travelle Wharton, who should solidify the left side of the offensive line alongside Jordan Gross.
Whether or not “Double Trouble” survives past this season lies squarely on the shoulders of Stewart. Not only does he have the most to lose with Williams getting an extension, he also has the greatest uphill battle of any Panther coming into the season. The five games that Stewart will miss will give explosive rookie and fellow Oregon Duck, Kenjon Barner, ample opportunity to seize the reins and steal the number two spot from Stewart. Stewart needs to come on strong once he returns to the field, otherwise he will be begging for touches at the end of the season. The Panthers drafted Barner as an insurance policy for Stewart’s penchant for injuries, but if Stewart fails to redeem himself this season, “Double Trouble” will be no more, and Barner will become a permanent fixture in the Panthers’ backfield.