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Carolina Panthers

Grill Bill: Run woes, rookies and boneless wings


Email from Parker:Is Ryan Kalil that important to the Panthers run game?

In a word: Yes.

To be fair, Tyler Larsen has been a more than serviceable backup since the final month of last season. He clearly struggled against the Eagles with a nagging shoulder injury, but he's a developmental guy the Panthers remain high on. 

"Tyler doesn't have Ryan's experience yet," head coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday. "Tyler just isn't quite there yet. I think he will be. He's a tremendous football player and he's got great upside for us, and he's supplied us with tremendous depth. But he's not a five-time Pro Bowler."

Yes, there's a reason Kalil  has gone to five Pro Bowls. Many reasons, actually. 

One of the most important, when it comes to the Panthers' run game, is he's an elite communicator. Know how Luke Kuechly is praised for diagnosing plays before they happen? He's the defense's version of Kalil, who has an innate ability to ID fronts. 

Larsen also isn't as quick as Kalil, who can still move even at 32. There's no question the run game is missing something when one of the game's best pulling centers isn't on the field. 

With all that said, the Panthers have averaged 106.7 yards rushing in Larsen's 10 starts since December. He's not THE reason the run game has suddenly come to a halt, so Kalil's potential return doesn't guarantee things will be fixed. But it sure may help. 

Let's combine these two since they're somewhat similar. 

Cameron Artis-Payne is finally getting a jersey on game days, but he's had just one snap on offense. Alex Armah's getting slightly more time. He's played three snaps in four games.

I just don't see them changing much with the backfield just yet. Both guys will likely continue to be special teamers, even though I think Artis-Payne will get some meaningful carries – eventually. And I know many of you want to see a fullback added to the mix, but they're essentially using hybrid Chris Manhertz in that role for now.

Email from Moses:Do you think we should use Curtis Samuel at running back? He seems to have more speed than CMC & he did play RB in college.

Another combo question, and I'll say yes to both. 

Even though I just said I don't see the Panthers changing much with the backfield just yet, giving Samuel a look back there makes sense. He'll probably never get a handful of carries a game, but his speed out of the backfield could be a fun weapon.

The running back in college thing brings up a good reminder: Samuel is still very much learning how to play receiver. He would be even if he didn't miss so much time this spring and summer. But, yes, the Panthers are aware they need someone to take the top off defenses. When they start trusting Samuel enough to do that, not only could it help the passing game, it would also make opponents pause before stacking the box like the Lions and Eagles the past two weeks.

C'mon. Proper wings have bones. 


I'd think you're assuming correctly.

Teams aren't going to spend all this time and money throughout the year only to fuel their guys with crud on game days. But that's a good question.

Guys typically have a block of time to get dinner on their own the night before a road game. Then, for say a 1 o'clock kick, they have a mandatory breakfast at the hotel. That spread includes pretty much everything players could get if they were at Bank of America Stadium: traditional breakfast items, an omelet bar, a smoothie station, steak, pasta and plenty more.

And, yes, I said steak. Who wouldn't want a filet and eggs first thing on a Sunday? 

Against my better judgment, I actually asked McCaffrey this question after Tuesday's practice. His reply: "How would you even measure that?" I wasn't about to make it more awkward by looking for measuring tape.

McCaffrey did add he's around 205 pounds, which is right where he wants to be. 

It's been six games. I understand why it's fun to make snap judgments, but I also like what Rivera said Tuesday when asked about McCaffrey's lack of big plays: 

"He's on the edge, and when it happens it's going to come big."

It's still unsettled.

Seymour could start in Chicago, or it could be Worley again. Whoever's out there first doesn't matter much. Who plays better does. Right now the Panthers are hoping one of them pulls away from the other. Until that happens … we wait.

Email from Brett: Is Ron high on Garrett Gilbert as a future #2 for Cam when at some point D.A. retires? As a Cleveland Indians fan I was numb after the loss, this was our year(again). My father is from Avon and gave me this burden. Is it time to move on?

I don't want to speak for Rivera specifically, but the Panthers certainly are intrigued by Gilbert. And now that he knows their system, they don’t want to lose him. Looking into a crystal ball toward next offseason when Derek Anderson's contract is up, I could see Gilbert in a competition for the No. 2 role against a TBD free agent.

And I hear ya about the Tribe. Took me the weekend to get over it. Hang in there, though. There's always next year. And the next. And the …

Oh, I am.

I'm not always proud of it. "We're" not easy to root for, and in many ways, we're the Yankees of the English Premier League. But as my loyalty to Cleveland sports proves – once I pick a team, I can't kick it.

Now, I did choose Chelsea before we started buying championships.

Before I went abroad in 2000, my buddy Alex and I figured we needed to pick an EPL team. Powerhouses like Manchester United and Arsenal weren't an option. We wanted a plucky, up-and-coming club. Funny to think that's what Chelsea was less than 20 years ago, but I further rationalize their recent success as the sports gods paying me back for growing up in Cleveland.

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