Jonathan Stewart suffered a hamstring injury on his fifth carry against the San Francisco. Early reports seemed grim, and although today’s MRI showed that Stewart had not torn his hamstring, there isn’t much optimism that Stewart will be ready anytime soon. Initial reports suggest a least two weeks, but some believe it could be as long as six weeks.
Fozzie Whitaker shaded Stewart’s absence against the 49ers with 16 carries for 100 yds. It’s still a big blow for Carolina. A between the tackles, power running attack, opens up big plays downfield and creates opportunities for Cam to punish teams on the ground.
Regardless of how much time Stewart misses, Carolina is going to need an effective rushing attack this week against the Minnesota Viking, which allows only only 73 yds rushing per game. The are the hottest defensive unit in the league. Last night, they held Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to just 14 points, and in Week 1 the Vikings scored two defensive touchdowns and held the Tennessee Titans to just 64 yards rushing.
Minnesota can’t be allowed to pin its ears back without hesitation. Denver has shown this is the best way to bottle Carolina’s explosive offense, and Linval Joseph and company will only hope to replicate this strategy.
The Panthers are going to need to find a way to keep the Viking’s defense honest without Stewart. Although Carolina has expressed their confidence in Cameron Artis-Payne to step in as that power-running presence, the burden will likely fall to Cam Newton.
“I've got a tremendous amount of faith in who CAP can be for us...You have a good change of pace guy in Fozzie….I think it’s a good combination,” coach Ron Rivera reasoned in today’s press conference. It’s hard to believe, however, that Carolina will give such load to CAP who hasn’t even suited up this season. Clearly, he’ll see the field, but it won’t be surprising to see Carolina rely on Newton, Whitaker, and Tolbert more.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn