Fullback #1: Mike Tolbert
Mike Tolbert is listed as a fullback on the Carolina Panthers’ roster however he isn’t a fullback in the traditional sense. At 5’9” and 245 pounds he has proven to be an effective short-yardage, goal-line back. If a team needs two or less yards for a first down or a touchdown, there isn’t many players better at picking it up than Tolbert.
He also has shown to be a reliable pass catcher with the Panthers with 66 receptions, 545 receiving yards and averaging 8.16 yards per receptions.
However, he will be turning 30 years of age this upcoming season and is coming off one of his worst seasons in his career. He finished the season with career lows in yards per carry (2.1) and yards per reception (7.8). He also failed to score a touchdown for the first time in his career.
Injuries seemed to play a part in the poor stat line, as he missed eight games last year and looked out of sync for a majority of the year. Tolbert can still be a key contributor to this offense but could be pushed for his spot on the roster by this next player.
Fullback #2: Lee Ward
Ward joined the Panthers this offseason as an undrafted free agent out of Stanford and fits the mold as a typical fullback. He was rarely asked to carry or catch the ball in college, finishing with one rushing attempt and four receptions in three seasons. He scored his first touchdown against Utah his senior season on a three-yard reception.
Ward may not be able to run the ball like Tolbert but if the Panthers want a run blocker to lead the way, Lee Ward is the guy. He stands 6’1” and 241 pounds and has the body frame to take on linebackers and cornerbacks. He could be a great road-grader to open up running lanes for the Panthers’ running backs.
This could be an interesting roster battle to watch in training camp as the veteran will be pushed by the rookie.
This may also shed some light on what the Panthers could be thinking in terms of their offensive game plan heading into the upcoming season. If Ward is able to make the roster, the offense could once again be dominated by the run game.
Brandon Croce is the Lead Publisher for PantherInsider.com. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonCroce.