The Carolina Panthers will likely have to use a two-man rotation of Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert for tomorrow’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, because No. 1 back DeAngelo Williams’s status is in serious doubt. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera already stated that he’s concerned about Williams’s chances of playing, as Williams didn’t participate in any practice sessions this week. It seems like the veteran back aggravated a quad injury, but there is still a sliver of hope that he can play this week; established players like Williams have been known to play on Sunday even after not practicing during the week.
Still, it seems highly unlikely that Williams will play, though we will know more about his status this morning. According to the Charlotte Observer’s Joe Person, Rivera stated that he will come to his decision this morning, so keep all eyes peeled for updates regarding the Panthers call on Williams. His status is totally up-in-the-air, and it’s safe to say that he should be benched even if he does play. The Panthers backfield is crowded enough as-is, and I wouldn’t expect Williams to lead the pack in carries if he’s hurt.
The Panthers are likely more inclined to rest Williams than allow him to play through this quad injury, because this week’s game against the Buccaneers is definitely a light one. Even though the Bucs have proven that they are no longer a laughingstock by upsetting the Detroit Lions last week to win three straight, they are still clearly much worse than the Panthers. Plus, the Panthers have a very important rivalry game with the New Orleans Saints next week, and it’s more important to have Williams 100% for that game. With Stewart and Tolbert, the Panthers can afford to rest Williams this week, especially since it is unrealistic for him to play tomorrow without having practiced at all this week.
Star defensive end Charles Johnson has officially been ruled out for a second straight game due to an MCL sprain that he suffered in the MNF game against the New England Patriots (c’mon, Marcus Cannon), and this news definitely doesn’t come as a surprise. Johnson should be able to play in next week’s huge game against the Saints, and his health will be crucial; the Panthers have to get consistent pressure on Drew Brees. Against the Saints, Johnson would be going up against standout right tackle Zach Strief. The Panthers have one of the best defensive lines in the league, so they will be fine without Johnson for another week and should be deadly with him back.
Frank Alexander and Mario Addison have been working in a rotation at left end with Johnson out, and both players form a solid duo at DE. Addison had a monster game against the Miami Dolphins last week and cannot be overlooked as a top backup going forward, because he made absolute mincemeat of Tyson Clabo. He feasted on a struggling player, but it was still very impressive to watch.