Running Backs Update

DeShaun Foster started at running back for the Panthers on Saturday night, but the first running back off the bench was Nick Goings, not rookie Eric Shelton. In fact, Shelton didn't get into the game until the second half -- after Rod Smart took his turn with the offense.

Smart was Carolina's most effective back Saturday night, carrying five times for 38 yards. Goings had two carries for only 3 yards.

Shelton received the most work of any Carolina back but was held to 20 yards on 10 carries.

It's clear that Panthers offensive coordinator Dan Henning is still pretty high on Goings, who rushed for five 100-yard games in the team's final six games last season.

It will be interesting to see what happens if Stephen Davis is able to return from a knee injury because it would give the Panthers a handful of talented backs.

Clearly that is a problem the Panthers would love to have, but Davis's status remains uncertain.

One team source said over the weekend that barring any setbacks they're hoping Davis will play in either the third or fourth preseason game. The problem is they don't know how Davis' knee will respond to game action.

"It's exciting to be out there tonight, but we're missing a special guy, Stephen Davis," said teammate Steve Smith. "Once he gets back out there, we'll be complete."

It's pretty clear the Panthers have big plans for running back Eric Shelton at some point in the next couple of years.

"Somewhere along the line, we would like to see Eric Shelton become a featured back in the NFL," offensive coordinator Dan Henning said of the team's second-round draft pick. "There is a lot of road that has to be traveled before we see that and can be sure of that.

"We are completely up in the air about Stephen Davis. So we were in a position of damned if you do and damned if you don't. If we hadn't taken Eric Shelton or someone like him, and Stephen didn't come back, then we would be short. I mean, we could still play with who we had (DeShaun Foster and Nick Goings), but we're looking for a big, strong, power back to take the ball 25 times a game. Now if Stephen comes back, we may end up long-handed there. But we felt like that was a better situation to be in than to be short. So that's why we took him. We're hoping he will become a featured back. When and how long that takes, who knows?"

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