For weeks, fans of the Carolina Panthers had been awaiting the return of running back Jonathan Stewart to the teams’ backfield rotation. After missing the first seven games of their season because of offseason surgeries on both ankles, he finally suited up in Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons. The results were encouraging for him as well.
Touching the ball only 12 times as expected, Stewart made the most of his limited reps. He had 43 yards rushing on nine carries to go along with three catches for 22 yards. Perhaps most importantly, Stewart outproduced teammate Deangelo Williams in the game. Williams finished the game with 42 rushing yards on 13 carries and two catches for 12 yards.
This performance was clearly a very good sign for Stewart. Although he is expected to be eased back into action slowly over the next few weeks, he showed tonight that he can still carry the load, averaging nearly five yards per carry on the day. If Williams were to aggravate his quad injury in the next few weeks, it could open the door for Stewart to reclaim his starting role at that point.
Even if that does not happen, it is only a matter of time until he returns to a starting role anyway, barring another injury of course. Getting him back will add another wrinkle for Cam Newton and the emerging Panthers’ offense to have at their disposal.
Additionally, he could be utilized near the goal line more in the coming weeks given his height and weight advantage over Williams. Although Mike Tolbert has filled that role adequately in his absence, he should be considered nothing more than a temporary fillin at this point in time.
In any case, expect the recuperating running back to earn more reps in the offensive game plan next week as a result of today’s promising performance.