The failings of now deposed Panthers GM Marty Hurney were many.
Whether it be trading a first-round pick for a second, sinking big money into injured linebackers, paying Charles Johnson like the best defender in the league or Armanti Edwards’ general existence, Hurney struck few, if any right chords his final few years on the job.
But nothing was as inane as $43.5 million. That’s how much guaranteed money Hurney sunk into running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
(And, ok, yeah, this was maybe as inane.)
You know all the cliches by now. It’s a passing league. Running backs are replaceable talents. These are so often repeated because, well, they’re mostly true.
And yet here the Panthers are, a 1-5 team with holes all over its defense and offensive line paying not one, but two runners more guaranteed money than either Arian Foster or LeSean McCoy is making.
Naturally, there aren’t enough carries to go around, and neither player is doing much of anything with the few totes they are getting.
Williams has taken the ball 50 times for 177 yards (3.5 YPC). Stewart, 35 for 142 (4.1). They’ve combined for just 11 catches across 10 games (Stewart’s missed two contests with a toe issue).
All this after Stewart and Williams helped spearhead one of the league’s most potent rushing attacks in 2011.
The solution for a team that’s been put on notice? A one-man committee. Williams played just five snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys while Stewart gobbled up 58. Even third-string back — and fellow dubious contract — Mike Tolbert was on the field more than Williams, getting in 15 plays.
It’s a recipe for fantasy goodness where there was once nothing but frustration if coach Ron Rivera is willing to stick with it. Three years removed from his most recent 1,000-yard campaign, Williams is just six months shy of his 30th birthday, and simply no longer the runner Stewart is.
Electric in the open field and adept at making enemy tacklers miss, the 5-10, 235-pound Stewart could flirt with RB1 production if given a true starter’s workload. He could probably lock himself into high-end RB2 numbers with 15-18 touches per game.
Whether the Panthers’ strategy will actually become any more coherent in the absence of their scattershot former GM is very much an open question, but they’re at least acknowledging things need to change.
Something else that needs to change? Stewart’s ownership in fantasy leagues. Just 67 percent in Yahoo, 81.1 in ESPN.
At least for this week, he’s back to “must own” status, while Williams becomes a tough decision. “Tough decisions” are usually cuts, but in this instance, you may want to hold onto D-Will in case the wind is blowing in another direction this time next week.
No Lisfranc For MJD
It’s no secret that things haven’t been going so well in Jacksonville. For starters, they’re 1-5. For seconds, they’ve tallied just five sacks in six games (last in the league) and are averaging 166.7 passing yards (also last in the league).
So you would excuse them if they were expecting the worst with Maurice Jones-Drew’s foot injury. Thankfully, they got the best.
Although MJD has already been ruled out for Week 8, he’s avoided a dreaded Lisfranc injury. He’s still expected to miss “multiple games,” but his absence should be measured in weeks, not months.
He won’t be back in time to save a moribund season for the Jaguars, but should provide quite a nice shot in the arm ahead of the fantasy playoffs.
For now, though, Rashad Jennings needs to be the top waiver claim in all formats, and locked and loaded into Week 8 lineups.
Shutdown For T-Rich?
The news wasn’t quite as good in Cleveland, where word leaked that the Browns are considering shutting down Trent Richardson (ribs) through their Week 10 bye.
Richardson would still be back in plenty of time for the fantasy playoffs, but his absence during two bye-heavy weeks could prove crushing for teams not already on a collision course with the postseason.
If you’re an owner, all you can do is add Montario Hardesty and hope for the best. Richardson will almost certainly be absent from this afternoon’s practice.
Dez: Everything’s Cool
Dez Bryant’s latest dropped touchdown in Week 7? That was major. His groin injury? “Nothing major,” at least in his own words.
"Just something that I need to rest and I’ll be ready," Bryant said Tuesday, before adding he's been dealing with his groin soreness for about a "week or so."
He swears the injury played little to no part in his two-catch dud against the Panthers. "Not much. It didn't affect me that much. It was just a little bit sore. I just had to relax a little bit."
Bryant’s in no danger of missing Sunday’s showdown with the Giants, but if he drops yet another touchdown, perhaps he’ll decide his groin was a major factor after all.
Quick Slants: Jimmy Graham (ankle) could be “full go” in this afternoon’s return to practice. His arrow is pointing back in the right direction. … It’s “doubtful” DeMarco Murray (foot) is ready for Sunday’s tilt with the Giants. Although Felix Jones is predictably dealing with two minor injuries of his own, he’s in line for his second consecutive start. … Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) have yet to be ruled out for Week 8. Troy Polamalu (calf) has been, however. … Sean Lee (toe) is done for the season. … Mario Williams (wrist): not far behind Sean Lee?
Bizarre/Ultimately Meaningless Stats Of The Week: The lone quarterback with a 400-yard game the past two weeks is Josh Freeman. … Chris Johnson has only topped 25 yards rushing three times in seven games, but he’s surpassed 91 yards in each of those three efforts. … Darren McFadden is averaging just 13.7 more rushing yards per game than Daryl Richardson. … The league’s top-five rushers — Arian Foster, Alfred Morris, Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore — have lost just two total fumbles. … Reggie Wayne is still the league’s only receiver averaging over 100 yards per game. … Carson Palmer is averaging more yards per game than Aaron Rodgers.