Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert is one of the best players at his position, and he’s one of the few fullbacks in this league who are legitimately of significant help to their offense (Anthony Sherman and Marcel Reece are two others). It’s even more rare to have a fullback who can make an impact as a rusher, blocker, and receiver, but Tolbert (and Reece) can do exactly that for the Panthers offense. He ran for 361 yards on 100 carries and five touchdowns, caught 27 passes for 184 yards and two TDs, and he provided some solid blocking for the Panthers running backs.
Interestingly enough, the Charlotte Observer’s Joe Person tweets out that Tolbert cut 13 pounds this offseason and now weighs 250 as heads into the 2014 season. I wonder if that means he’s going to be featured less as a blocker and more as a skill position player next year, but no reason was given by Person for Tolbert’s significant drop in weight. I doubt this was unintentional, so it’s something to monitor going forward.
With Jonathan Stewart out 2-4 weeks and powerful late-round rookie RB Tyler Gaffney done for the year with a torn lateral meniscus, the stage is set for Tolbert to receive an uptick in carries at the start of the season. DeAngelo Williams, Kenjon Barner, and Tolbert will be the team’s top three rushers to start the year, so it will be interesting to see how the carries are apportioned after D-Will gets his touches. Tolbert saw his carries nearly double after his first season with the Panthers, and I expect triple-digit carries again in 2014 (sadly, it’s mostly because I don’t have faith in Stewart to stay healthy).