Goodson Garners an Increased Role

There were always hints that running back Mike Goodson could do the job. He showed flashes in training camp. He had moments in the preseason, too, as well as in his rare opportunities to play on third down the past two years.

So Mike Goodson's success doesn't come as much of a surprise to the Panthers, even if the results have been overwhelmingly pleasant.

They knew he had talent, but Goodson has been trapped behind DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart (and last year Tyrell Sutton) on the depth chart, limiting the impact the 2009 fourth-round draft pick from Texas A&M could have on the team.

But in his first two starts against Tampa Bay and Baltimore, Goodson has been able to do something neither Williams nor Stewart could in the first half of the season -- run for 100 yards in a game.

Goodson has eclipsed the century mark in both games, finishing with 151 yards from scrimmage in Carolina's 37-13 loss to Baltimore with Williams, Stewart and Sutton all sidelined with injuries.

He's expected to start Sunday against Cleveland, although he could see limited reps if Stewart returns from a concussion.

Coach John Fox said it would have been "hard to imagine" Goodson having this type of production in back-to-back games a year ago as a rookie.

"Mike worked very hard this offseason both to increase his size and strength and obviously has a better understanding of our run game as well as our pass protections," Fox said. "The guy enjoys playing, which I deeply respect. He's gotten an opportunity that he's taken full advantage of, and I really like to see that."

Fox also feels like the offensive line is doing a better job blocking the past two weeks.

"Like most run games and historically with ours, it takes a little time to develop," Fox said. "We had some new moving parts with a new fullback. Our tight ends have basically been the same, but three-fifths of our offensive line is different. Like everything else, it's kind of like the more you do with the same guys, the better you get, and it's always taken a little time to evolve."

Given Goodson's success, it will be tough to take him out of the starting lineup even when Stewart returns from a concussion. Stewart has missed the last two games after taking a huge shot from Saints safety Darren Sharper on Nov. 7.

Fox said the blow was "substantial."

"Probably the more contact involved could determine more extended time away from a contact sport," Fox said.

Williams is already on injured reserve. Sutton is nursing his way back from a high ankle sprain but probably isn't ready to go yet.

SERIES HISTORY: 4th regular-season meeting. Panthers lead series, 3-0. The Browns are the only team the Panthers have never lost to in franchise history. Even in hard times like these, the Panthers have always been able to beat the Browns. In 2006, while mired in an eight-game losing streak, John Fox's Panthers traveled to Cleveland and beat the Browns 20-12. After that game, Fox gave game balls to everyone who travelled to Cleveland, including trainers and the equipment staff.


Coach John Fox
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--On Monday, coach John Fox was asked if the Panthers made the right move in cutting Jake Delhomme given the team's instability at the quarterback position this season. The Panthers have already started three different quarterbacks, including recent pickup Brian St. Pierre, and they rank last in the league in passing.

"Looking back, sitting here at 1-9, I'm not sure how many moves were right -- and that's not being critical of anybody," Fox said. "(It's) just hindsight, which is always 20-20. But I know Jake seems to be happy where he is, and sometimes change is good. I don't believe in looking back."

Fox reiterated that cutting Delhomme was a difficult decision for everyone involved.

"If you remember that press conference, it was very tough on everyone involved," Fox said, referring to the day both he and general manager Marty Hurney desperately tried to hold back tears after announcing the move. "We went through a lot of battles with (Delhomme), and I have the utmost respect for him and what he accomplished here. So it was very hard."

--The Panthers are on pace to score 187 points, which would be 66 fewer points than the 2001 team that finished 1-15 under former head coach George Seifert.

--Wide receiver Steve Smith is rarely at a loss for words, but this week seems to be the exception.

"I have no perspective," Smith said after the Panthers dropped to 1-9. "We didn't close it out, didn't win, another loss. Snowball. Big hill. I don't know what you're looking for. You're going to write the articles, you don't need me to comment on it with my perspective. It sucks losing every week. Same stuff. Different city."

--The Panthers are coming off a season-high three sacks against the Ravens with defensive ends Charles Johnson, Everette Brown and rookie Greg Hardy all getting in on the act. For Brown, the guy the Panthers gave up a first-round draft pick to get, it was his second sack in as many weeks.

"We created havoc for the quarterback most of the night," Brown said. "At the beginning of the game, he had times where he was able to sit back in the pocket, but the secondary saved us a couple times."

--If the season ended today, the Panthers would own the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. You'd have to imagine the Panthers would think long and hard about drafting Stanford's Andrew Luck, the highest-rated quarterback on the board.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- Quarterbacks who have started a game for the Panthers since 2006.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a profession, and you have a name on your jersey and a number, all of that in our fraternity of people is on film, and it doesn't go away. Our season is not over yet, and we have six more opportunities. Our main focus is to clean this one up and get on the Cleveland preparation. We aren't done until our body of work is done. That is what you play for -- being a professional and having pride in what you do. You do it for those guys in the room." -- Coach John Fox, on what he tells his players with six games ahead and no playoff hopes.


The Panthers have a hot running back in Mike Goodson, so expect them to lean on him in Cleveland. Goodson has run for 100 yards in back-to-back games.

Defensively, the Panthers know all about Jake Delhomme's weaknesses, so they will try to exploit them on Sunday if he starts over the injured Colt McCoy.


All eyes are on the quarterback situation. Jimmy Clausen (concussion) returned to practice Wednesday, so he should be ready to go Sunday, although coach John Fox was a little hesitant in declaring him medically fine. He said Clausen would continue to be evaluated as the week progresses.

If Clausen is healthy, he starts.

If not, it will be up to either Tony Pike or newcomer Keith Null (practice squad), since it sounds as if Brian St. Pierre is out due to a shoulder injury.

--RB Jonathan Stewart is back to practice, but look for Mike Goodson to start.

Will Jake Delhomme win his return to Carolina? Discuss inside the message boards.

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