Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart is rarely ever healthy, and it’s lower-body injuries, specifically ankle ailments, that have plagued the former feature back over the past few seasons. After missing seven games in 2012, Stewart made just six appearances last year with 93 and 46 carries respectively and a combined 24 receptions. He suffered a hamstring injury earlier this offseason, but he’s healed from it faster than expected and has proven it with his performance so far tonight against the Kansas City Chiefs.
J-Stew, who has averaged 3.6 and 3.8 yards per carry in each of the past two seasons after notching over five yards per pop on two occasions earlier in this career (including a season with over 1,100 yards), has two carries for 19 yards today. Stewart’s 17-yard run helped spark the Panthers offense and was an excellent carry, and he showcased some real power with a two-yard run. When he’s on the field and healthy, he’s one of the better backs in the league, but that’s so rare that it’s so difficult to trust him. DeAngelo Williams is the best bet to lead the Panthers in rushing yards next season, but Stewart is the best back on the roster when healthy.
The Chiefs QB-WR combo of Alex Smith and Dwayne Bowe will be key next season, because Bowe is easily the team’s top wide receiver (Travis Kelce and Jamaal Charles should be right there with him in the overall pass-catching department). Bowe struggled last season in a real down year and will miss a game due to a suspension, but he is talented and has shown up well today by hauling in five passes thrown at him for four receptions and 56 yards (11.2 yards per target).
Smith has unsurprisingly been even better with an accurate 11-16 line for 98 yards, though his average of 6.1 yards per attempt shows that he’s hitting the shorter stuff. It’s classic Smith, who also has a carry for nine yards. He’s been slowing down his blistering pace earlier, but his line has been solid considering the amount of pressure he’s faced from the Panthers vaunted front.