The Carolina Panthers, and more specifically Jonathan Stewart, have really come alive these past two weeks and the team now holds a small lead over the Seattle Seahawks for the most rushing yards per game in the NFL. The Panthers have run for 868 rushing yards this season, which is fourth in the NFL, but they have done that in only six games and have averaged 144.7 rushing yards per game, which is the highest total after Week 7.
The Panthers have relied heavily on the run game this year and leaned on Stewart and Cam Newton to keep this part of the offense going. Through Week 7, they have run the ball 197 times and the duo of Stewart and Newton have accounted for 157 of those and have run for 668 of the team's 868 rushing yards. The Panthers don't have another player on the team who has passed the 100 yard rushing mark with Mike Tolbert the closest at 92.
The biggest concern for this offense though has to be whether or not these two players can continue to carry the ball as much as they have with both players on pace to set career highs in rushing attempts. Stewart has only passed the 200 carry mark once in his career (2009) and is currently on pace to run 274 times.
Newton is on pace for 144 rushing attempts and will pass his career high of 127 back in 2012. He has seen his carries drop to an average of 107 rushing attempts the past two seasons.
It would certainly be hard justifying taking the ball out of Stewart's hands as he has been running hard since coming out of the bye. Over the first four games, Stewart only averaged 55 rushing yards per game but the last two games he has seen that total jump to 101.5 yards per game. This team was built to run the ball and as long as they continue to struggle at wide receiver, the coaching staff should continue with the game plan until a defense proves they can slow this run game down.
*Stats courtesy of ESPN.com