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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Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Jodie Meeks' season...

Player: Jodie Meeks

Position: Shooting guard

Age: 30

2017-18 salary: $3.3 million

2017-18 stats: 77 G, 14.5 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.1 bpg, 39.9 FG%, 34.3 3P%, 86.3 FT%, 49.1 eFG%, 111 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 11/29 at Sixers - 21 points, 4 rebounds, assist, steal, 5-for-11 FG, 3-for-6 3PT, 8-for-9 FT

Season review: The Wizards took a flier on Jodie Meeks last summer in what seemed at the time to be a low-risk contract with a potentially high reward, if he could stay healthy and play to his career norms. They were in obvious need of help at backup shooting guard and three-point shooting for their bench.

Meeks fell short of those expectations for a variety of reasons. Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he could not make shots at the clip the Wizards were hoping for. His field goal percentage was not far off from what he posted in recent years, but his three-point percentage was nowhere near the 38.8 percent he shot in his previous four seasons.

Meeks bottomed out midseason, shooting 28.9 percent from three in December and 28 percent in January. Those numbers ticked up beginning in February, but Meeks never fully gained the trust of his coaching staff. He rarely got hot enough to alter games and his best stat-lines often came in blowouts. 

There was a domino effect from Meeks' struggles, as starting shooting guard Bradley Beal had no one to spell him. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player this season.

For Meeks personally, it was a bittersweet year because staying healthy was no small feat. He had a run of bad luck and finally broke out of it this season. On the other hand, he never made the impact he felt he was capable of and that wasn't easy for a guy joining a new team and a new locker room.

Meeks' 2017-18 season was ultimately defined by more than his shooting woes. First, he expressed interest in a trade in February and did not get his wish. Then, he was suspended for allegedy using performance-enhancing drugs after the regular season ended. He was out for the playoffs and will miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season without pay as he waits out a 25-game ban.

Meeks may or may not serve that suspension as a member of the Wizards. He has a player option for next season worth $3.5 million. He has yet to inform the team of his decision, but the expectation is that he will pick it up. Given how poorly his season went and ended, it would likely be the smart move financially for him to opt in and hope for better results next season.

Potential to improve: Shooting percentage, perimeter defense, passing

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Markieff Morris, PF

Marcin Gortat, C

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Tomas Satoransky, PG

Ian Mahinmi, C

Ty Lawson, PG

Tim Frazier, PG

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