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Carolina Panthers

Ask Bryan: More Sacks on the Way?


What is the status of defensive end Charles Johnson? I can't find him on the roster. – Doc in Concord, N.C.

On the roster page, you have to scroll down to the very bottom to find Johnson listed under injured reserve/designated for return. Johnson was placed on the list after suffering a hamstring injury in Week 3. He is eligible to return to practice Nov. 10 and can be added back to the roster as early as Nov. 24, which would allow him to play on Thanksgiving against the Dallas Cowboys.

As well as Carolina's defensive line is performing right now, it's exciting to think about the possibilities when the team's sack leader four of the past five seasons returns to action. The Panthers traded for Jared Allen – the career sack leader among active NFL players – the day they put Johnson on IR, and Allen had one sack (and a basically but not officially a second one) in the fourth quarter to close out the Eagles on Sunday night. The day after Johnson went to IR, the Panthers signed rookie Ryan Delaire off Washington's practice squad, and he proceeded to produce two sacks (and was within a whisker of three) in his NFL debut. Kony Ealy and Wes Horton have been steady contributors, and assuming Mario Addison gets well soon from his shoulder injury suffered Sunday, it's quite a group.

Hey Bryan, with Jonathan Stewart's current buildup to success, and 11 games left, do you see Cameron Artis-Payne ever getting some serious touches this season? Or do you think he's merely insurance at this point? He's a bruiser in my eyes, and having two bruisers would be nice. Thanks! And I love your work by the way! – Elliott in Charlotte

The Panthers are rolling with Stewart right now and he is responding, with 44 carries for 203 yards and two touchdowns over the last two games. Artis-Payne, after carrying the ball 11 times in the two games before Carolina's bye week, has one carry over the last two games.

"We're in a little bit of unchartered waters," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said, noting that Stewart had split carries with DeAngelo Williams throughout his career before now. "It's a fine line though because as we've seen, he gets better with carries."

Stewart soared late last season when Williams was hurt, but on the other hand Stewart last played in all 16 games in 2011. I would look for Artis-Payne, a rookie from Auburn who led the Southeastern Conference with 1,608 rushing yards last season, to get back to seeing a few carries a game, but Stewart should continue carrying the bulk of the load when healthy.

Hi Bryan, when do you think Brandon Wegher and Kevin Norwood will get some snaps? I really liked what I saw of Wegher in the preseason! – Anna in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Wegher actually outgained Artis-Payne by more than 1,000 yards last season – piling up an NAIA record 2,610 yards at Morningside College – and he earned a roster spot as an undrafted rookie with a spectacular preseason. The Panthers traded with Seattle to acquire Norwood just before the regular season started. He's been active for one game so far – one more than Wegher.

Both of those guys appear capable of helping on game day, but it's not that simple. It's a numbers game, as seven players must be declared inactive before each game. At running back, with Stewart so active, there hasn't been a role for Wegher. At wide receiver, Norwood was active for one game, but when Jerricho Cotchery suffered an ankle injury, the Panthers promoted Brenton Bersin from the practice squad to play the slot, and Bersin is still contributing even with Cotchery back. All those guys can do is stay ready because opportunity could knock at a moment's notice.

Due to our recent success, is there a chance the NFL will flex our game with the Packers from a one o'clock game to the Sunday night primetime game? #Keep Pounding – Levi in West Columbia, S.C.

The NFL had until Tuesday to shift the starting time for the Week 9 matchup of current unbeatens but decided to pass. A move to Sunday Night Football would have meant the Packers would be on NBC back-to-back weeks (they visit the Denver Broncos this Sunday) and also would have meant moving the needle-moving Dallas Cowboys out of the spot. It also would have meant the Panthers would have been in primetime three consecutive weeks – something that almost never happens.

The game could have been moved to the four o'clock hour, but for that to happen NFC-focused FOX would have had to give up the Packers-Panthers game to AFC-focused CBS in exchange for the AFC clash between the Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts.

I, like head coach Ron Rivera, like the 1 p.m. time slot. And I know you're going to be watching whenever it kicks off, right?

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