When the Carolina Panthers selected Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, there was plenty of speculation that he could receive a decent-sized secondary role behind Jonathan Stewart. The veteran’s injury history and lack of experience of being the bell cow running back in the Panthers’ offense made this seem quite possible.
The speculation went for naught as Artis-Payne only received 45 carries and rushed for 183 yards during his rookie year, while Stewart carried the ball 242 times and rushed for 989 yards with nine touchdowns. The good news for Artis-Payne is that most of his production came in the last three weeks of the season, as he compiled 34 carries for 152 yards while Stewart sat out due to a foot injury.
Stewart ended up re-injuring his foot during the Panthers’ 24-10 loss in Super Bowl 50 to the Denver Broncos, and the injury is apparently still affecting him four months later as he was forced to sit out of OTAs last week. While the Panthers don’t seem to be overly concerned about Stewart’s injury just yet, he is 29 years old and has a history of foot/ankle issues which could end up being a factor heading into 2016.
If Stewart is forced to miss any time, or possibly re-injures his foot again during training camp or early in the season, Artis-Payne would instantly become the man in the Panthers’ backfield with Fozzy Whittaker chipping in on third downs. It’s obviously not a situation that the Panthers hope will happen, but Artis-Payne should be better prepared for a bigger role in his sophomore campaign as opposed to his rookie year.