Last year was the first season Jonathan Stewart had an opportunity to be a featured running back for the Carolina Panthers. Ron Rivera and the Panthers' offense leaned heavily on the running back and he accounted for 65% of the rushing attempts among the running backs. He did this even missing three games at the end of the regular season.
The hope, even though Stewart did run well, would be to find a running back to help the veteran carry the ball and cut back his touches. This would help increase Stewart's chances of staying healthy and fresher later in the season.
"The goal is to take five to eight touches [per game]. I think that will be really good for Jonathan," Rivera said after practice Wednesday.
"I think with the emergence of CAP [Cameron Artis-Payne] and Brandon [Wegher], I think we are going to have a young guy that is going to be able to carry the ball five or six times a game to take pressure off him."
Both running backs have had a strong start to training camp and is one of the reasons the Panthers should have confidence in them entering 2016. Rivera said the reason they have looked better is because they have been able to limit their mistakes.
The other thing that has greatly improved, for Artis-Payne more so, is his play in pass protection drill. This is an aspect of the game that is very important for running backs, even though it isn't always talked about as often as it should be.
"[Artis-Payne] has done a nice job in pass protection. I don't know if it has so much he has gained weight as it is when you watch him, he is keeping his weight down and moving his feet. He is not lunging and putting his head down."
However, Wegher is a bit behind Artis-Payne in this category, according to the Panthers' head coach.
The Panthers' offense had the second-most rushing yards last year and that is trend that is not likely to change this upcoming season. The best thing though for all parties will be if one of these young running backs are able to emerge as a candidate to grab a consistent amount of carries on a weekly basis.