Deja Vu All Over Again

One year ago, the Carolina Panthers were facing the possibility of a two headed monster attack from Stephen Davis and Deshaun Foster. Davis goes down then Foster goes out for the year, leaving the Panthers in scramble mode to fill the void in the backfield. Fast forward one year. Stephen Davis is apparently back and healthy after microfracture surgery and is the slated starter. Foster, who was originally scheduled to be the starter and heir apparent to Davis, is in a contract year.

Not only do the Panthers have to decide on whom they go with for this season, but they have to start looking ahead for next season and beyond. Both options are not ones that most teams like being in.

Davis is 31 years old and coming off very risky microfracture surgery. How much more does he have in the tank? He's played just one full 16-game schedule in his eight NFL campaigns. How do you consider that in along with the fact that he has 2 more years left in his contract? Foster is coming off several consistently injury riddled years, has shown flashes of greatness from time to time, but has shown that he can cough the ball up at the wrong times. On top of that, Foster has indicated on more than one occasion that he wants to play out West, where he went to school.

Also, with Davis being the deemed "starter", how does this give Foster the opportunity to showcase the fact that he can be the key running back for a team, much less any team? What sort of position does this put the Panthers in when evaluating their options? Do they give him a huge long term contract based of change of pace runs and sporadic past performances? If you look at Panthers linebacker Dan Morgan, who has been the man while healthy, but has never played more than 12 games in a season, the answer would be yes. Despite his track record of not staying healthy, Morgan was resigned to a multi-year extension on his contract, keeping him with the Panthers until he's pushing his early 30s.

Another thing to consider is the fact of the ball control philosophy that has become the trademark of John Fox since coming to the Panthers. Fox likes to grind out the ball, wearing down the opposing team's defenses late into the game. Foster is more of a scat back, able to break off big gains at any time, but not really known as a north south bruising type of back. Dan Henning, Carolina's offensive coordinator sees the Panthers continuing the philosophy of power running for the Panthers, "We went into last season the same way went into '03," Henning said. "We picked Stephen Davis up because we wanted to be a power running team. Now if we had a power running back we would like to head in that direction again. But if we don't have that guy or are not capable of blocking the way we did in '03, then we'll have to adjust to the capabilities of those around and it may be a different style of running or it may be running back by committee." One has to think that the disappoint that has been Eric Shelton has to have thrown a larger monkey wrench into the coaching staff's plans. Shelton was to be the bruising back that could have taken over for Davis. Now, the Panthers have to wait at least a year to see if he improves.

Coach Fox, spoke about how he feels his football team should play, "I haven't changed," Fox said. "I emphasize the run game because I think that's where you create toughness in your football team. I'm not going to sit here and say we're going to run it three straight downs, because we want to move the ball. You've got to be able to take what the defense gives you."

No matter what the outcome of this season, you have to think that the Panthers are already looking into the future to try to figure out what direction this team will take. Do the Panthers continue the run heavy philosophy that Panther fans have seen since John Fox took the helm, or does the future talent situation cause the Panthers to change up their offense, becoming more of a balanced offense? Suffice to say, do not be surprised if this is the last season you see both Stephen Davis and Deshaun Foster wearing the black and blue.

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