If you were to compare year to year stats, you would think the Panthers offense was right on track, (only 1 point scored difference through 6 games). As fans, we can see that something is different with this team, and I have figured it out! This team has an inadequate run game and the Panthers are built on the run game. Now is this an issue with our running backs? I don’t think so. I think it is more of an issue with poor play calling and the coaches not trusting the running backs. J-Stew is the clear exception to this rule as he is a very productive runner, but sadly the words “when healthy” must be added to any sentence of praise of his running style and productivity.
Take a look at Fozzy Whitaker, who in case no one has noticed, has been our best back this season. Whitaker is rushing for a 5.5 yard per carry average and 8.8 per catch, but sadly due to play calling he only gets the ball about 8 times per game. In games where another running back is active, Fozzy is out-touched by a less productive back 2.5 times to 1. In the game vs the Buccaneers he averaged 9 yards per carry but for some reason only saw 5 carries. He is a scat type back that can do everything well, he can run in a zone scheme (outside tackles), up the middle (Shula special), and he is an effective weapon when coming out of the backfield in the passing game. Why Fozzy is being so little is beyond me. He will never be a lead back but needs to be used more often. Fozzy is a real change of pace for this beleaguered Panthers offense.
CAP (Cameron Artis-Payne) is maybe the most untrusted back the Panthers have, he goes through the craziest ups and downs. One week he carries the ball a ton of times scoring twice, the next? He’s not even active. CAP is a very effective zone runner and change of pace guy, and when he bounces outside of the tackles or follows a pulling guard he can do some real work! He is a hard-nosed runner who always falls forward with the ball.
Mike Tolbert does not belong in the NFL, 18 carries for 50 yards and endless amounts of tape worth of blown assignments on both pass and run blocks. He is not who he was 2 years ago. No longer strong enough nor athletic enough to block anyone.
The Panthers are running about 25 running plays a game. That is from out of 70 snaps. Now I figured we would see in increase in pass plays based on the talent the Panthers have in the receiving corps and the improved arm of Cam Newton, but I was not expecting there to be this much of a difference in run to pass plays and I also don’t expect to see a first and goal throw from the 1 yard line. Opposing teams clearly don’t respect the Panthers run game, because of its ineffectiveness. A run game would pull coverage guys and allow for more space in the passing game. It would also help with time of possession and this year the Panthers have not been dominating time of possession like they did last year. This forces their defense to work more and their best players having to take snaps off.
Now I know the offense has not been the problem this year but it is clear to any real fan that it is not the same. Until the Panthers establish and trust their run game and runners, the trend of sloppy offense and worn out defenders will continue, and sadly, there are no top level backs available at this point in the season.
By JP "the Pope" Tremarzo
Follow him on Twitter @JP_Tre18