Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart has declared himself ready to make his return to game action from his long absence after offseason ankle surgeries, which will make for a crowded situation in the team’s backfield.
DeAngelo Williams has run well enough to be 10th in the NFL with 477 yards and Mike Tolbert is tied with Cam Newton for the team lead in rushing touchdowns with three, so it’s not like there’s an easy call to be made about who should be cast aside to get Stewart carries. Coach Ron Rivera didn’t give any indication about the pecking order in the backfield on Wednesday because, as he explained, it is going to be up to the players to determine who gets the ball as the season unfolds.
“One thing we can’t worry about is making sure everybody gets enough touches. What has to happen is when these guys get their opportunities they have to be quality touches,” Rivera said, via the Charlotte Observer. “We can’t force things. What we’ve got to do is [offensive coordinator] Mike [Shula] has to continue to call his game the way he wants to call it, and at the end of the day when you get your opportunity, make the best of it.”
That might not be music to the ears of fantasy team owners trying to figure out which Panthers back is the best bet going forward, but it is the most sensible way for the Panthers to handle things in reality football. They have a lot of options at their disposal, but the offense is only going to work if they decide who plays because of production.