It’s Next Man Up As Panthers Prepare For Chiefs In Kansas City
By Ted Fleming
It seems like forever since the Panthers were able to change the number in their win column, so you might excuse them if they wanted to hang on to that warm and fuzzy feeling that came along with it after their rousing victory on a national stage Monday night.
While not a really big thing when put up against virtually everyone in the NFL, a mini win streak is a possibility as they travel to Kansas City to take on yet another struggling team–the 1-10 Chiefs,–this weekend at Arrowhead Stadium.
“It felt great to win, on Monday Night Football feels even better,” said tackle Jordan Gross. “But that’s what our team needs to do is figure out how to get a winning streak going and the month of December can be a lot of fun for us if we can do that. You start feeling better, your body doesn’t hurt as bad, the coaches are happier with you, everything’s better. So, hopefully the guys know what it felt like on Monday, bottle it and do it next week.”
To get to win number four, they will have to do without defensive tackle Ron Edwards, who became yet another victim of injured reserve. This ended his season, so Sione Fua was tabbed to take his spot in the lineup alongside Dwan Edwards. As a rookie, Fua started 11 games for the Panthers last season before a hamstring landed him on IR.
On the other side of the ball the offense is faced with not having starting running back Jonathan Stewart, who once again suffered a high ankle sprain. If there is some good news here, it is not the one he hurt earlier in the year, giving head coach Ron Rivera some hope he can be ready by game time.
“It was on his opposite (left) leg so we’ll see how it progresses and we’ll go from there,” said Rivera. “I saw him coming in and he looked okay, but I’m optimistic.”
Stewart did not practice, so if he is unable to go on Sunday, seven-year veteran DeAngelo Williams will step in. He has carried the ball just 91 times for 292 yards with a career low 3.2 yard average.
“We kind of went through this earlier this year,” said Gross. “He hurt his ankle in the preseason and we had to adjust to being without him. If he doesn’t play I know DeAngelo’s not going to be upset with getting more carries. We’ve done well with him in the past. I know it will be hard to be down a guy but I have faith in all our backs. We’ve been so used to having both those guys for so long, I don’t care who’s in there, they both know how to run the ball well.”
Having lost his starting job a few weeks ago mostly because Stewart is more of a threat to catch a pass out of the backfield, Williams has some impressive numbers, albeit a small sampling, with five receptions for 47 yards and a 9.4 average.
“He’s played very well, he’s run hard in the opportunities he’s gotten and taken advantage of them,” said Rivera. “He’s practiced well and been a professional and that’s all you can ask from the guy.”
Fullback Mike Tolbert will be the backup to Williams at tailback position while 6-foot-1, 255 pound tight end Richie Brockel will see action in Tolbert’s spot.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.