Let's start this week's Grill Bill with an excerpt from a conversation during Sunday's practice.
Me: "Guess what was delivered to my place today?"
Panthers staffer: "Your new grill?"
Panthers staffer: "Let me know if you need tips on how to use it."
WCNC sports/anchor reporter Kelsey Riggs: "Wait, what did you just get?"
Me: "A new grill."
Kelsey: "Like for your teeth?!?"
Me: "Yes, cause that's something I could pull off ... "
Kelsey: "Oh, I thought it might have been for your Grill Bill segment."
Now, onto your questions …
I'll go with depth at running back.
Many of us, including me, essentially wrote off Cameron Artis-Payne after the Panthers drafted Christian McCaffrey. But even though it was against opposing team's backups, Artis-Payne looked like a different guy in the preseason, averaging 6.4 yards per carry and leading the league with three rushing touchdowns.
He's still not guaranteed to get a jersey on game days, but if something were to happen to Stewart, Artis-Payne appears more capable than ever.
First, PUP was never an option for rookie cornerback Corn Elder because only guys who start camp on PUP are eligible for the in-season list. Elder practiced that first night.
But since there was a good amount of confusion this weekend about whether teams could eventually bring back IR-bound players, here's a quick attempt at clearing that up.
To be eligible for the rule that allows teams to bring two players off IR later in the season, a guy has to be on the 53-man roster for at least one day during the regular season. According to the CBA, Sunday was the last day of "training camp," making Monday the first day of the regular season. So if the Panthers wanted to keep the option of bringing Elder back some time in 2017, they needed to keep him on the roster until at least 4:01 p.m. Monday. They did not.
Final cut weekend could have used more humor like that.
Take a deep breath and think about this step-by-step.
1) Yes, they're keeping two kickers for now - an unconventional move, but one they're hoping will turn into a draft pick. If it doesn't, the harm in waiting a few days was what, really?
2) They've kept three quarterbacks the past three seasons. Sure, one of them turned into a special teams ace, but Joe Webb hadn't thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2011. That's also the year the Panthers last used a draft pick on a quarterback. Can Sunday waiver claim Brad Kaaya or practice squader Garrett Gilbert be like New England's Jimmy Garoppolo, a valuable insurance policy behind a sure-fire starter? Beats me. But it's long past time the Panthers at least attempt to develop a young quarterback, something Webb wasn't.
3) It's a bummer Elder is done for the year, but those are the breaks. Plus, the Panthers were fortunate to get through the preseason relatively healthy. Elder's knee kept him off the field for a good chunk of the spring, and he made it through just one training camp practice. While he recently added some sprints to his rehab program, he spent much of the past few weeks on the exercise bike, and he wasn't all that close to returning. A redshirt season for a fifth-round pick who's barely practiced isn't a fatal blow.
4) If the Panthers don't make the Super Bowl, it won't be because they don't have a fullback on the roster in early September.
It's no surprise new Bills coach Sean McDermott is temporarily using a pipeline from Charlotte, but the Panthers – and I'm guessing many of you – were OK with fullback Mike Tolbert, receiver Philly Brown (released Sunday) and cornerback Leonard Johnson leave this spring. Now you can add Webb and the Kaelin Clay-for-Kevon Seymour trade, but remember, Clay was a sixth wideout who hasn't caught a pass in a regular season game since entering the league in 2015.
here's my question: is it time to panic yet? — Tom Dunphy (@TomDunphy) September 4, 2017
Let's put these two questions together since they're related.
The "evolution" piece is a good question, but take a look at the dip in former fullback Mike Tolbert's snaps:
2012 - 43%
2013 - 58%
2014 - 40% (played only eight games)
2015 - 38%
2016 - 29%
Those numbers show the traditional fullback was already getting somewhat phased out of the offense. Now consider how 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers) is continuing to grow in popularity across the league. And Carolina added McCaffrey.
Previously, when the Panthers were in their 21 personnel (two running backs, one tight end and two wide receivers), it made more sense to use a fullback like Tolbert. But now their 21 look can feature the pick-your-poison duo of McCaffrey and Jonathan Stewart.
Dickson and fellow backup tight end Chris Manhertz could also line up in the backfield as they did in the preseason. Example: In the "dress rehearsal" against the Jaguars, Dickson and Manhertz combined for 56 snaps while fullbacks Alex Armah and Darrel Young totaled 10.
It's been 21 years since I last ran a 40, and for the life of me, I can't remember. I feel like I was in the 4.7 range.
Now in my advanced age, it's clear I'm never finding the fountain of youth:
Email from Damon: Will Samuel play this week?
Despite tweaking his right ankle in each of the Panthers' final two preseason games, Samuel appeared to be full-go during Sunday's practice.
Who gets more playing time by the middle of the season -- Russell Shepherd or Curtis Samuel? — Reek (@The_Reid) September 4, 2017
If you're the Panthers, you hope this answer is easily Samuel, who was a second-round pick for a reason. Of course, he has to stay healthy to have a big role as a rookie.
Shepard's carved out a nice career after going undrafted in 2013, but last season was his first with more than four receptions. He caught 23 passes for the Bucs in 2016, a ballpark I could see him landing in this year. Shepard will always be active on game day because of his role on special teams, and he'll get a fair amount of snaps on offense, but his touches are going to be limited considering all the options ahead of him in the Panthers' offense.
That's the NBA, by far and away. A less vocal minority is into soccer, mostly because a surprising amount of guys are into FIFA video games.
Some people dream big, Jeremy. My dreams are smaller. See question No. 8 from last week’s Grill Bill.
Wow.As strange as you guys may think the two kickers thing is right now, Washington reminds us things could always be stranger.