Panthers moving away from running back rotation


Panthers moving away from running back rotation

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Panthers are changing the way they utilize their high-priced tailbacks in hopes of igniting a stagnant running game.

Carolina has a combined $79.5 million invested - including $43.5 million guaranteed - in their tailback tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, yet quarterback Cam Newton is the team's leader rusher.

Coach Ron Rivera said in an effort to shake things up the Panthers are moving away from their long-standing philosophy of rotating Williams and Stewart.

Rivera said the Panthers will instead look to ``find one guy, develop a rhythm and if he gets hot, ride him'' against Chicago Sunday.

``I want to see one guy pound and get a rhythm and then he gets tired and the other guy comes in,'' Rivera said. ``To me it's hard for a back to get a rhythm when you're coming out every other play.''

That philosophy essentially began last week against Dallas, although it was hard to notice as neither tailback got rolling in a 19-14 loss.

Stewart replaced Williams as the starter and finished with 35 yards on 10 carries. Williams played five snaps and carried twice for 4 yards.

Newton led the team in rushing with 64 yards.

Rivera said Stewart will start again Sunday against a physical Bears defense.

The Panthers began rotating running backs when Stewart first arrived on the scene as a first-round draft pick in 2008.

A year later they became the first running back tandem in league history to both eclipse 1,100 yards rushing in a season and nicknamed themselves ``Double Trouble.''

But this year Carolina's ground game has been anything but trouble.

If anything it's been wildly inconsistent.

In the season opener against Tampa Bay, wide receiver Kealoha Pilares was the team's leading rusher - and he carried once for 5 yards - and Newton has led Carolina in rushing in four of six games.

Only once has a tailback eclipsed 50 yards rushing in a game, that coming when Williams rushed for 69 yards in Carolina's only win of the season against New Orleans in Week 2.

The Panthers are 13th in the league in rushing, largely because of Newton's team-leading 273 yards rushing.

``We have to stick with it first and foremost,'' Rivera said of the running game.

The Panthers will start Jeff Byers at right guard this week and Byron Bell will move back to his more comfortable right tackle spot as they look to move away from the zone read options and go to more of a traditional power running game.

``Without talking about what we want to do, we to do some things that these guys are capable and comfortable doing,'' Rivera said.

Under now deposed general manager Marty Hurney the Panthers gave Williams a five-year, $43.5 million contract with $21 million in guaranteed money in 2011.

Then in the preseason the Panthers inked Stewart to a five-year, $36.5 million contract extension with $22.5 million guaranteed.

When asked if he now looks at those moves as mistakes given the NFL has shifted to more of a passing league, Rivera said, ``People tell you need two good backs in this league. Philosophically going with the idea that you need two good backs we did what we felt like was good for us.''

Williams has been the team's regular starting running back since 2008, but last week found himself on the bench.

And it didn't seem to sit well.

After Sunday's loss Williams took to Twitter and began retweeting fans' comments about him not getting enough carries and not playing a big part of the offense.

Williams later tweeted it was not directed at anyone in the organization.

``I talked to (Williams) and explained it to him,'' Rivera said about the move to start Stewart. ``It's like any pro, he understood it and didn't agree with it and when he gets his chance he wants the ball. I appreciate that, I really do. It's just the circumstances right now. We're trying to build a rhythm so this is a chance to do something.''

Notes: DE Antwan Applewhite (hamstring) is out this week, while DE Thomas Keiser (elbow) is doubtful. Everyone else should be available, Rivera said. ... The Panthers on Friday signed DT Nate Chandler from the practice squad and waived DT Frank Kearse. ... Rivera said the team will wait until next week to activate WR David Gettis from the PUP list.


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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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