Carolina Panthers: Can Fozzy Whittaker fill the void?


When the news broke on Monday afternoon that the Carolina Panthers would be releasing the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, Panther Nation exploded.

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DeAngelo Williams announced that the team plans to release him next month. Once the new NFL fiscal year officially starts, he will be designated as a June 1st cut – saving the team additional money towards the salary cap. It’s kind of tricky how the dates match up, but for all intents and purposes, Williams is no longer a member of the Panthers.

We knew it was coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier to handle, particularly with the troubling news that owner, Jerry Richardson, failed to reach out to Williams until months after his mother passed away.

Williams will soon be off the roster, but he’s all over the franchise record books, holding top spot for all-time rushing yards and touchdowns, among many others.

This will be the second straight offseason in which Carolina has released one of the faces of the franchise. All-time leading receiver, Steve Smith, was shown the door around this time a year ago.

Sep 14, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (28) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Bank of America Stadium. Carolina defeated Detroit 24-7. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

From a purely football standpoint, this move makes perfect sense. Williams was set to command a significant amount of the salary cap and essentially became expendable when Jonathan Stewart proved he can be a workhorse back when healthy.

Some promising displays from Fozzy Whittaker also made the move a little easier.

Panthers fans will surely remember his electrifying touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals in the Wildcard round of the playoffs:

This one play nearly epitomizes Whittaker’s running style. He’s quick, shifty, and hard to bring down.

Fans didn’t get to see him very often during the regular season – he only totaled 32 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown – but he was one of the few standouts during the preseason. While it may be a small sample size, his 4.5 yards per rush this past season is a promising statistic.

He isn’t the quickest running back out there, and at 5’10” and 202 pounds, he certainly isn’t the biggest. Where Whittaker stands out is his relentlessness – he’s the type of back that just refuses to go down every time he has the ball.

If he gets a chance to prove himself, it’ll be the first true look we’ve gotten of him. Whittaker has only carried the ball 60 times while bouncing around on four teams his first three seasons.

As of right now, Whittaker is in place to be number two on the depth chart behind Jonathan Stewart.

Stewart reminded us down the stretch last season just how dominant he can be when he’s healthy, so he’ll likely command most of the snaps. That being said, staying healthy has been a major issue for the former Oregon Duck. In his first four seasons, he only missed a total of two games. However, in the three seasons since then, he’s spent 20 games on the sideline watching in street clothes.

If history repeats itself, we may see Whitakker in a featured role strictly out of necessity.

Feb 19, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman speaks to the media at the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

That being said, there are still many, many transactions left to be made. Now that we know for sure that DeAngelo Williams will not be with the team, general manager David Gettleman will surely add another running back to the roster.

If Whitakker can continue to progress, he and Jonathan Stewart just might be Smash & Dash 2.0.

Next: These NFL Draft prospects could be stars.

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