Former number-one overall pick and current Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has certainly seen his fair-share of criticism for his play in the 2013 NFL season. His numbers haven’t been terrible, but as the Panthers sit at just 2-3, the lack of overall offensive production by Carolina this season has largely been blamed on the dual-threat quarterback.
Though Newton hasn’t been the superstar that people expected him to be this season, the Panthers running game has been better than expected. Even with Jonathan Stewart sidelined for at least the entire first half of the season, a resurgent DeAngelo Williams, the rumbling Mike Tolbert, and of course Newton have had great success on the ground.
The Panthers currently rank seventh in the league in rushing offense this season, averaging 135.8 yards per game on the ground as a team. Williams has been fantastic, rushing for 394 yards on 91 carries this season, though he hasn’t gotten into the end-zone yet. As you would expect from a quarterback that’s dangerous running the ball, Newton has been productive as well, putting up 153 yards on 29 carries. Tolbert has been less productive, grabbing just 111 yards on 31 carries, but he’s filled his role as the short-yardage back wonderfully with 13 of his 31 carries going for first downs.
As the Panthers come into a relatively easy stretch of their schedule, starting with the St. Louis Rams this Sunday in week seven, they are looking to right the ship for this season. Particularly against St. Louis this week, their rushing game is going to be vital to their success.
The Rams come into their matchup with the Panthers with only the 30th ranked rushing defense in the league, allowing 130.5 yards per game on the ground by their opponents. Their passing defense is slightly below average as well, but they are clearly more vulnerable on the ground than through the air.
If Carolina can come into this game and get Williams going, as well as mixing it up with Newton’s running ability outside of the pocket, the Panthers should be able to move down the field with relative ease in this game. If that’s the case, they should be able to control this game and get back to .500 for the season.