During my June 1 Soon to be stars post, I selected Jonathan Stewart as my star-in-the-making on Carolina’s roster. And as stated in that article, I am going to assume DeAngelo Williams will be playing somewhere other than Carolina this year.
I'm hopeful Stewart can stay healthy and show the world what he is capable of. The Panthers’ offensive line is quite strong and should be better this year than last as Jeff Otah returns from injury. And although every team that faces Carolina will key the run, having a running threat like Cam Newton behind center can help the running backs a ton. Stewart could be poised to blow up in 2011.
Mike Goodson adapted very quickly to the NFL last season and brings an awful lot to the table in his own right. With Stewart’s durability concerns, Goodson might get the chance to show off what he can do in a lead role for several games in a row -- as he did last season -- but the Panthers do want to use him as an excellent young complement to Stewart.
Over a three-game stretch last year from Week 10 to 12, Goodson carried the ball 59 times for 275 yards, a 4.7-yard average. And that was on an offense with no threats through the air. Goodson also caught 16 passes during that short stretch and can be a real factor in the passing game. Goodson is a dynamic runner who is extremely quick and elusive, but he also doesn’t lack power for a back his size. He is ascending very quickly. Many casual fans didn’t watch the Panthers a lot last season, but trust me on this: Goodson can play.
Also in the mix is Tyrell Sutton. And like Goodson and Stewart, but to a lesser degree, this is a guy who could really step up if given the opportunity. He isn’t real big, but Sutton is tough as nails and has actually played some fullback in his NFL career, which is rather remarkable considering his stature.
Sutton is short, but thickly built, and has power. He also can make the first tackler miss. And although he has carried the ball only 25 times in his very short career, the 24-year-old Sutton has averaged 5.6 yards per carry. He is also an accomplished contributor in the pass game. Sutton is a very good and underrated No. 3 back who can help his club in a lot of ways.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.