Let me present this critical view of the running game like this:
When it is 3rd and 2 and you have no choice but to run it, when it is anything - 3rd and 1, 3rd and a half... anything. When everyone on the field, in the stadium and the world know the Carolina Panthers are going to run it how much faith do you have that the team will be able to convert that play to a first down where it matters?
Take Cam Newton out of your thoughts and just put it on the RB's and team - no Newton carrying the ball. Can the RB's carry it? Can they truly carry it? Can they carry the load, haul the rock, and bring home the baby when the pressure is on the line?
I have a hard time believing that even with a top 5 OL unit that the Panthers RB's could get this done. Maybe I am a bit spoiled from what I am accustomed to over the last 15-20 years from the Bills - but I just do not sit comfortable with the stall of RB's in Carolina. I really hope this can change, I really hope durability and reliability improve, and I hope that it is a result of the RB's finding their own success without having bailouts from Cam and the passing game, as well.
Cam Newton has been #1 on 1st down percentage in the league the past 3 seasons.
Jonathan Stewart was #2 in 2011 and Mike Tolbert was #2 in 2013
Mike Tobert was over 44.4% in 2012, but he only had 54 carries.
5 of the top 6 for rushing first down percentage in the past 3 seasons of all rushers in 3 seasons.
I have no doubt the Panthers have what they need to get first downs and move the ball into the red zone while eating up the clock.
The Panthers issue has been red zone offense in 2012 and 2013. They lacked the receiving threats to open up the running lanes by threatening the back of the endzone. They loaded up on that this off-season. So, I see the Panthers coming up big in the red zone now.
The Panthers now have Benjamin, Olsen, Cotchery, Dickson, Williams, and Avant in the passing game on 3rd and short. They had Olsen and LaFell the past 2 seasons, and we know how many times LaFell dropped passes or better yet popped them up for the DBs to intercept it.
Edited by CPantherKing, 10 August 2014 - 10:13 PM.