A Fullback Helped Turn Around Tennessee's Run Game. Could It Do The Same For Carolina?

A Fullback Helped Turn Around Tennessee's Run Game. Could It Do The Same For Carolina?

In 2015, the Tennessee Titans finished 25th in rushing yards per game. In 2014, they ranked 26th in the league. They had been desperately searching for some semblance of a ground attack for years.

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Carolina Panthers Part Ways With FB Mike Tolbert

The Panthers have parted ways with their Pro Bowl fullback Mike Tolbert as first reported by Max Henson on Panthers.com.

“I feel very fortunate to have coached Mike for nearly his entire career,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “He was someone we targeted in 2012 because we felt he would be a good addition to our offense and he was very productive for us. He brought great energy and leadership to our locker room and I wish him the best.”

Tolbert's role diminished pretty heavily following 2013 after suffering a knee injury that limited him to eight games. His 11.6 yards per game in 2016 was a career low.

Tolbert totaled 992 yards 13 touchdowns on the ground and 771 receiving yards with six receiving touchdowns. His ability in the passing game and short yardage situation was his biggest asset for the Panthers in 2012 and 2013. 

Tolbert was due $1.5 million in 2017, meaning the release was essentially performance based as the extra money doesn't do much for the Panthers.

It would be interesting to see if the Panthers go with a true blocking fullback moving forward to help open up the run game more. 

Follow @TrippMorgan6 and @Cat_Chronicles for the latest news and updates on the Carolina Panthers.

Article photo by Jesse Fraetis photography

Byrd Watching is Back!

Byrd Watching is Back!

Every year, fans fall in and out of love with certain players. We always have favorites who didn’t make the team or who we believe, given a real opportunity, could contribute positively to the team. Coincidentally, we nourish these affections as we fall out of love with guys who are approaching the twilight of their career or who we believe never fully capitalizes on their potential. I’m one of these fans.

 

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Toldozer Pushed By A Rock Head?

Toldozer Pushed By A Rock Head?

The Panthers have a big problem, stuck between a fan favorite who has contributed for 4 years here in the Carolinas and a rookie who is clearly the heir to the throne. If you have not figured out yet, I am talking about the fullback position.  This is not an article to bash Tolbert and disrespect what he has done it is simply to...

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Which RBs Make The Panthers? This May Surprise You

As cut-day looms and the Turk sharpens his blade, there is a battle going on in the Panthers backfield.  And according to Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer, there may be a surprise or two.

I suspect that the Panthers will keep five total running backs.  I see Jonathan Stewart, Cameron Artis-Payne as locks and that means there are three openings for for these five candidates:  Jordan Todman, Mike Tolbert, Lee Ward,  Brandon Wegher and Fozzy Whitaker.

Three That Make It:

So beyond Stewart and CAP, I see Wegher, Ward and Todman making the roster.  Why?

Brandon Wegher:  This Un-drafted Free Agent signing out of little known Morningside College in Iowa.  He was arrested for domestic abuse over an altercation with his brother and was ruled academically ineligible at a couple of schools including Oklahoma.  But all of these things look to be youthful mistakes and Ron Rivera calls him a “Diamond in the Rough.”  

I think he has a bright future as a Panther and that he makes the team as the third running back.  If you haven’t seen this, you must watch this video:

 

 

Lee Ward:  This UDFA out of Stanford plays like a prune juice.  He clears everything out.  (You liked that didn’t you?)  But seriously, watch this guy, and he needs to start at Fullback.  He may be the next Brad Hoover.

 

Jordan Todman:  This is a young man that is undersized (5’9/ 198 lbs.) that has been described by Mike Tolbert as a “Tenacious Cat.”  That tenacity, and his versatility as a kick-off returner (along with his 4.4 speed) that will earn him a spot.

Why No Tolbert?

At the risk of ticking off Mike’s Momma, I believe it is time for him to go.  Don’t get me wrong, I love “Stanky Leg,” but we use him as a fullback and he is no fullback.  He would be best used as a backup running back that can come in on short yardage.  But that is not his roll here and honestly, Cam is the best short-yardage option on the team.  And let’s face it, the Panthers can save $2.4M by cutting him, and no one can argue that he is that much better than Lee Ward.  Well Tolbert’s mother may, but I can’t.  Do you think Tolbert makes the team?  

 

Thanks for reading and voting.  Let me know your thoughts below:

 

-By Mel

@PanthersDrafter

Carolina Panthers: C3 Three Up and Three Down

Three Things The Carolina Panthers Did Well

I had the pleasure of going to this game so I got to see firsthand what the Carolina Panthers did very well! It wasn’t exactly easy to see because I was in the nosebleeds, but the new big screens helped! Going into this game I was really worried that it was going to be a shootout. The Detroit Lions offense has a lot of weapons and the best wide receiver in the NFL. I didn’t think that the Panthers could matchup with all of the talented players on the Lions. I predicted the Panthers losing this matchup 28-17 and I was wrong… but it feels great to be wrong! The Panthers defense was able to tame the Lions and shutdown Megatron! This game was a great test and it showed our true colors.

So, what three things did the Carolina Panthers do well?

1.    Super Mario – I was tailgating and I felt my phone vibrating. I reach into my pocket and read the message from ESPN. The message said, “Greg Hardy will not play today.” We all know what is going on with his case, so the Panthers would have to shut him down at some point. If Hardy wasn’t going to start, then who was? The answer was Mario Addison. Addison was a force all game, racking up 2.5 sacks and getting in Matthew Stafford’s face. The defense did a great job of pressuring Stafford and keeping his fantasy football numbers down.


2.    Calvin Who? -
I cannot say enough about how well the Carolina Panthers defense covered Calvin Johnson. He might have had 83 yards but for him that is less than normal. Melvin White and the Panthers defense did not let him get in the end zone, and that was the recipe for success! 


3.    Cam Staying Safe – It was Cam Newton’s first game of the season and he looked a little rusty at first but then he figured it out. He did not try to overdo it and he made a lot of smart plays. He did not try to force it and it looked like he has matured as a quarterback. As long as Cam doesn’t turn the ball over the Panthers will be successful. The Panthers will look to Cam to manage the game throughout the season and rely on our defense to carry the workload.

Three Up by Justin Raymond
Follow me on Twitter @JayRay19
 

Three Things the Panthers Didn't Do Well

 
The Panthers looked dominant against the Detroit Lions yesterday at "The Vault".  Fans had so much to cheer for. In a 24-7 beat down it would seem there is not much that the winners would have done that needs improvement. Well that was not the case in this win. Carolina did many things exceptionally well but here are three things they will need to work on.

1. Mike Tolbert- The "the fire hydrant" or "bowling ball" did not have a good game. As a whole Carolina did not run the ball well, again, only 62 yards rushing. Now the negative number of yards for Tolbert may just be bad play calling or bad offensive line play. Whatever the case it is something  Carolina must improve.

2. Average yards per rush- The Panthers had a dismal 2.6 yards per carry average. Last week vs Bucs Carolina only averaged 3.4 yards per rush. Some work to do in this part of our offense. For Carolina to achieve maximum success this season an effective running game must be established. 

3. Cam sacked 4 times- This is not good. Cam already has a bad ankle. We have to protect Cam and make sure he stays upright. Due to his surgically repaired ankle he has lost some of his giddy up. It does not show when he is going but right as he is right before taking off that burst of speed just isn't there.

Great win for the team this week. But like with all great teams Carolina can't become complacent. These are areas we can improve on. Not trying to bring everyone down but it is only week 2. Let's celebrate but keep a clear perspective as well. 

Three Down by "that Freak'n Puerto Rican" aka @JoeRiollano

Razzle, Dazzle and Bowling Ball

No offense in the NFL can be consistently potent without having a successful ground game. Over the years, the Carolina Panthers have had some solid running backs. Some of the running backs that I can remember are Tim Biakabutuka, Stephen Davis, and DeShaun Foster.

Everyone remembers the 2009 NFL season when both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart rushed for 1,000 yards. They were the fifth pair in NFL history to reach that miraculous mark. 


After that season, the Carolina Panthers were confident that they had the best tandem in the NFL. The Panthers then resigned DeAngelo Williams to a five year, $43 million extension in 2011 and on this date two years ago they signed Jonathan Stewart to a five year deal worth $36.5 million. The 2014 season is around the corner and the Panthers haven’t seen much return from their investments. The front office restructured both of those deals and there were rumors that Williams would be traded in the offseason.

Once again, the Panthers have a talented backfield, except this time the backfield is overpopulated. The backs that are fighting for playing time are: DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Kenjon Barner and Darrin Reaves.

As of right now all are healthy. So, who is going to start the season number one on the depth chart? Who will finish the season with the most carries? Who will be the dark horse?
I am going to make an argument for each of the running backs….

1. DeAngelo Williams (Razzle) – is quick, explosive and has great play making ability.
2. Jonathan Stewart (Dazzle) – strong like a fullback and quick.
3. Mike Tolbert (Bowling Ball) –is built like a tank and is quicker than he looks.
4. Kenjon Barner – small and fast like a track star.
5. Darrin Reaves – low center of gravity, not shy of contact and makes smooth cuts.

DeAngelo WilliamsI believe that DeAngelo Williams will still be number one on the depth chart to start the season. He has been the top running back on the Panthers for several years and I don’t see them taking that title away from him. If the offensive line can block for Williams, and he can stay healthy, I see Williams getting over 1,000 rushing yards this season.

I hope they use Mike Tolbert even more this season. I am huge Tolbert fan because something always good happens when he has the ball. It takes more than one player to get him down and he always falls forward, and gets the extra yard. Tolbert should be getting all of the goal line carries.
Watch out for Darrin Reaves! I think he will overtake Barner as number three on the depth chart. I went to East Carolina University and I saw Reaves run all over our defense when he played for UAB. This player has the potential to be a starter in the NFL, and could become number two on the depth chart by the end of the upcoming season.

Who do you want to see starting for the Panthers in the backfield on September 7 against that tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers D-line? Do you have any nicknames for Barner or Reaves?

Injuries Mount in Carolina Panthers' Backfield

Every year it seems like the Carolina Panthers lose at least one guy for the year early in mini-camp. Last year around this time, it was LG Amini Silatolu. This year, it's rookie RB Tyler Gaffney.

Gaffney was drafted to compete with Kenjon Barner for snaps behind Jonathan Stewart and an aging DeAngelo Williams, but Gaffney isn't the only Carolina RB that's ailing.

Who is the other ailing RB you may ask? Do I really have to tell you?


Yep, it's Stewie. Jonathan Stewart could miss two to four weeks, according to early reports. I hate to say it, but isn't it just downright strange that he keeps getting dinged up....AFTER he got paid?


His injury is "a hamstring ailment suffered before players reported to training camp."

Uh-huh, riiiiight. Like the Church Lady used to say...."How conveeeeeenient."

If she were a Panthers' fan, she (well, Dana Carvey anyway) would be going off about the fact his last name starts with an "S" and wondering what it really stands for. Could it be........SATAN?!!?!?!?

No, he's the coach at the University of Alabama, but I certainly do understand the frustration. For two years in a row, they've drafted youth at the position in order to try and eventually get some of these fat salaries off the books, but this crop of RBs isn't doing their part.

Although it looks like Stewart should be back before Opening Day, and healthy at that, I simply think he's an unreliable runner at this point in his career and could (and likely will) go down again to injury. Last year he was "nagged" by problems with his ankles. This year it's his hamstring, which is a notoriously re-occurring injury for runners. The same thing nagged Texans' RB Arian Foster throughout the season two years ago.

While I don't know for sure Stewart's injuries of late have anything to do with his "being paid," I do think it's "conveeeeeenient" that he started getting these injuries after he got the big payday. I'd like to think he's no Albert Haynesworth, but if this "hamstring issue" stays with him all season, I say dump his behind as soon as the "dead money" becomes an acceptable cost of doing business. As it is, the cost is over $15 million this year. Thanks, Marty!

In either case, a few years back there was a lot of talk about trading him since we had a younger, vital DeAngelo. Considering the veritable mountain of cash Stewie's gotten since and for such little production, a trade would have been great. I had hoped they'd pull that trade at the time, but then again it was GM Marty Hurney who loved his runners.

 Let's not forget losing 6th-round rookie pick Tyler Gaffney, either. At 5'11" and 220 pounds with good speed for his size, the hope was he could help provide some of the inside pounding that the Panthers wanted to do more of this year without playing Mike Tolbert out of position.

With Gaffney and the even larger Stewart out of the picture, the backfield looks exactly the same as it did last season....and without Jordan Gross to block (no, this isn't "Hollywood Squares"). Instead, it appears that Byron Bell will be moved from the right side to the left tackle. Despite what Gettleman & Co. say, the late Paul Lynde could pass-block about as well as Bell can. I'm sure he could trash-talk better, at least.



So now, we're back to where we were last year. DeAngelo is the only reliable tailback and he's a year older and in that "over 30" crowd. Tolbert's the fullback who can play some tailback on short yardage either in single-back sets or with a TE put in as a FB to block for him. Kenjon Barner, entering his second season, has yet to show much of anything at the pro level (which is why Gaffney was drafted most likely), so both those guys can be marked off the list for 2014.

Looks like Gettleman's going to be hitting free agency again....looking for another RB for the rotation. With all the money locked up in the position and with two draft picks there in the last two years, this is the LAST thing they were expecting.

Since the offensive tackle spot is nearly bare, despite the proclamations of Gettleman or others, the playbook just shrank even more. Even with the veteran WRs like Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant on the roster, they're simply replacing vacated talent from last season. All this going on WHILE Cam Newton is still struggling in recovering from ankle surgery, which has limited his reps in camp thus far.

Then there's Kelvin Benjamin. Early on, his passes will likely be red zone targets and chains-moving type of plays. Those will be his bread and butter as he learns how to run more precise routes and is taught how to play as physically as his size would suggest he can - but didn't in college. His being a redshirt-sophomore coming out of FSU doesn't help, since he's quite raw....and his slowest-in-position 3-cone drill at the combine suggests he'll have issues getting separation from coverage in the early going, if not for his entire career.

Although the Temperature Scale's catch radius is huge, Cam's not the most accurate QB in the NFL. We've been over the "whys" of Benjamin's drafting - when Cam misses, he usually misses high - and Benjamin's skill set, while impressive, is indeed somewhat limited and in college he had issues dropping passes. Things are NOT looking good once again.

Sound familiar?

It's definitely too early to tell, but so far this season is starting off like last year's did, and that's rather poorly.

Let's just hope with all the issues they already have that they can end this regular season in a similar fashion to how they did last season....but at this point, that's an order much, much taller than Kelvin Benjamin will ever be.

Follow me on Twitter @Ken_Dye