Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 6/14/13
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Quarterback Cam Newton said if the Carolina Panthers are to be successful this season their running backs need to be more involved in the offense. Newton said that means a concerted effort to get the running backs involved early in games. The Panthers once invested nearly 80 million in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart -- both contracts have since been restructured -- and also brought in free agent Mike Tolbert last season. Yet, it was Newton who led the team in rushing with 741 yards in 2012. Williams, Stewart and Tolbert combined for 1,256 yards rushing last year, which ranked 28th in the league among running backs, according to STATS Inc. Only Jacksonville (1,231 yards rushing), Atlanta (1,225), Dallas (1,212) and Arizona (971) had less production from their backs. Carolina's running backs seemed an afterthought at times last season under former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, touching the ball on only 38 percent of the offensive plays. "For us, the running game is key," Newton said this week at the team's minicamp. "In years past, success for the Carolina Panthers has meant getting our running backs involved in the game early and letting those guys do what they do. I feel like we have an unbelievable group." Coach Ron Rivera agreed. He said one of his primary goals is to get the running backs more involved and "keep them involved." "We want to keep them as a big part of what we do," Rivera said. "I think with Cam's ability to get the ball downfield is going to open things up underneath. His ability to run will make people hesitate and that is where you can see the effectiveness of the running backs." The Panthers added rookie Kenjon Barner from Oregon in the sixth round this year, giving them another weapon coming out of the backfield. General manager Dave Gettleman said the Panthers will use him as a "scat back." Barner hasn't disappointed in minicamp, turning heads with exceptional speed and quickness. "We have guys that are capable of running the ball as well as catching it out of the backfield," Newton said. "We have to use that to continuously keep the defense honest. Everyone knows we have playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. But in order for us to be successful, we have to run the football. We will run the football." Williams ran with the first-team offense during minicamp while Stewart recovers from minor surgery on both ankles. Williams carried the ball only 173 times last season, while injuries limited Stewart to 93 carries. Tolbert, the team's fullback, carried 54 times. Newton ran 127 times, averaging a team-best 5.8 yards per carry. Carolina finished last season ninth in rushing and 7-9 overall, largely because of Newton's contribution. The Panthers have used the zone read option extensively over the past two seasons with Newton, but are expected to limit that this season. "I envision it being used in certain situations and circumstances," Rivera said. "There are still some things that we can exploit against opponents because of it. We'll use it and use it smartly... But we're not going to go with something like that as a staple" of the offense. Nothing would make center Ryan Kalil happier than if the Panthers ran the ball a little more. "I think people tend to be numb to that statement of hey, we want to run the ball more, but it's very true that most successful teams do have a balanced run-pass attack," said Kalil, who has played in three Pro Bowls. Kalil said it's a matter of getting back to what the Panthers were doing well in 2008 and 2009 when they ranked among the league's leaders in rushing. "It's sort of what it looks like we're doing," Kalil said. "It's what we got back to at the end of last year. I think it helps out Cam, too. It helps out for the passing game and it's exciting to watch the two horses we have back there (Williams and Stewart) do what they do best."
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Study shows potential breakthrough in diagnosing CTE in living humans

Michael Bennett wants a sit-down with Donald Trump

Report: Dwyane Wade nearing deal with Cavaliers

John Mara ‘very unhappy’ with Odell Beckham’s TD celebration

Four NCAA BB assistants arrested in alleged fraud scheme involving Adidas

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Top matchup for each Week 4 NFL game

Brent Musburger not impressed with Tony Romo as broadcaster

LeBron, Steph featured on SI ‘A Nation Divided, Sports United’ cover

If you don't appreciate Aaron Judge yet, there's still time

Tom Brady on Aaron Hernandez: ‘I don’t think about him very often’

Jim Harbaugh wants Big Ten to address ‘unsportsmanlike’ opposing locker rooms

The 'Nonexistent MLB Rookie of the Year races' quiz

MLB teams with the most at stake this postseason

After Carmelo Anthony trade, the Western Conference looks completely different

Veterans who need to prove they still belong in the NHL

The 'Celebrations are afoot in Philadelphia' quiz

Getaway Day: Closing time on 2017 regular season

Sports & Politics Intersect: Mayor Garcetti rolls back the NFL red carpet

The 'Greatest Show temporarily not on turf' quiz

Separating MLS playoff contenders from pretenders

WNBA Finals preview: Lynx look for revenge against Sparks

The 'Chris Sale joins an elite club' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: The home runs just keep on coming

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

MLB teams with the most at stake this postseason

The 'Nonexistent MLB Rookie of the Year races' quiz

After Melo trade, the West looks completely different

The 'Celebrations are afoot in Philadelphia' quiz

Getaway Day: Closing time on 2017 regular season

Sports & Politics Intersect: Mayor Garcetti rolls back the NFL red carpet

The 'Greatest Show temporarily not on turf' quiz

Separating MLS playoff contenders from pretenders

WNBA Finals preview: Lynx look for revenge against Sparks

Three Up, Three Down: The home runs just keep on coming

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker