Williams' production, pay raise not adding up
Panthers' running back DeAngelo Williams hasn't put up the numbers befitting a player making $8.6 million a year.
Carolina gave Williams a huge five-year contract worth $43 million, including $21 million guaranteed, in July figuring he could spearhead the team's running game. But through three games that hasn't happened, not even close.
Williams has just 61 yards on 27 carries and is third on the team in rushing behind rookie quarterback Cam Newton and backup running back Jonathan Stewart. He's not even sniffed the end zone.
But the Panthers say they aren't concerned. Williams has started all three games for the Panthers this season and will start this Sunday at Chicago.
Coaches say there are several reasons for Williams' lack of production; Carolina has become a pass-first team and Newton has cut into Williams' carries - particularly in the red zone.
And when the Panthers have called Williams' number, coach Ron Rivera said that the holes simply haven't been there.
''When you really put it down on tape there were some opportunities that DeAngelo has had,'' Rivera said. ''And again, it's one block away. It goes back to the packages and the specific things that are designed for people more so than it looking at one thing.
''To me you have to look at what we're doing within the packages.''
Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's play calling this season includes 125 passes and 76 runs. Chudzinski said he's not quite comfortable with where the Panthers running game is yet, but thinks they're improving. He said they took a step in the right direction Sunday running for a season-high 107 yards in a 16-10 win over Jacksonville.
''I think from our standpoint we'll improve and help in that situation'' Chudzinski said. ''I think we're going in the right direction and I expect that to continue.''
They will also continue to be pretty close to a 50-50 split in carries between Williams and Stewart, just as there has been the last three years when both backs are healthy.
''I think nowadays in the NFL you used to have one guy and he was the bell cow,'' Chudzinski said. ''Fortunately we're in a situation where we have those two guys and we're keeping them fresh and giving them both touches and give them ability to be fresh. And they're good about it as well. If one guy is tired and he comes out, the other guy goes in. It's a good relationship.''
But Williams, who ran for a combined 2,632 yards in 2008 and 2009, is on pace for just 325 yards this season. Williams has repeatedly said he is happy with the new offensive philosophy, but he has heard the rumblings about this performance.
Though he didn't speak to the media on Wednesday, he wrote on his Facebook page earlier this week: ''Also to all the people that think I'm not the same tailback I was before don't know football.... So step away from your fantasy league and watch football.''
However, the new offensive direction and the running back by committee approach raises the question of whether the Panthers should have signed Williams to the new deal. The team could have invested that money in another position of need like cornerback or defensive tackle and allowed Stewart and Mike Goodson to handle the running back duties.
Stewart has proven to be more productive from a statistical standpoint.
He's carried 23 times for 90 yards and has emerged as a dangerous weapon in the passing game with 13 receptions for 140 yards.
But Chudzinski won't say if one back clearly distances himself from the pack if the team would consider giving him more carries.
''That's kind of hypothetical so we'll kind of cross that bridge when we get to it,'' Chudzinski said. ''I think right now there's a lot of factors that go into it. Sometimes one guy might get a hole or a better look than the next guy and then the next game it might flip flop.
''We're going to keep working on the run game and I think it will come.''