Notes: Running backs on mend


CHARLOTTE – At one point in the second half of Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions, the Panthers were down to one healthy running back.

DeAngelo Williams was inactive with a thigh injury, fullback Mike Tolbert was injured on a goal line rush and Fozzy Whittaker injured his quad while covering a punt on special teams.

That meant Jonathan Stewart, who started in place of Williams, was the last one standing.

But on Monday, head coach Ron Rivera had some encouraging news about Carolina's battered backfield.

"Mike is OK. He is a little sore," Rivera said. "We'll see how he progresses with his treatment.

"He kind of hyperventilated on the field because he couldn't get a clean gasp of air. He's pretty sore because he took a nice shot to the sternum."

Whittaker pulled his quad, and Rivera classified the injury as "week-by-week." Williams is expected to return to practice this week.

"DeAngelo is looking pretty good," Rivera said. "We'll see how he is on Wednesday on the practice field."

KALIL EXPECTS MORE FROM O-LINE: Stewart finished with 15 carries for 37 yards, but the numbers don't do his performance justice. He ran with authority all day and refused to go down on first contact – his 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter serving as a perfect example.

Center Ryan Kalil raved about Stewart's tough running and issued a challenge to his offensive line.

"Imagine if we would have blocked a little better for him," Kalil said.

Kalil credited Detroit's defensive front for disrupting Carolina's running game, but the Pro Bowl center believes the Panthers have a lot of room for improvement up front.

"I think it was the offensive line not doing a good enough job of being consistent. I think we have a good enough group to have a good running game, but I don't think we've been consistent enough to make that go," Kalil said.

"We just have to be better. We can't have a, 'My bad,' from one guy on one play and another, 'My bad,' on the next play. A lot of it is just not communicating properly, and that is something we can work on and get better at."


SAFETY SNAPS: In Week 1, Charles Godfrey played 71 percent of the defensive snaps (40 plays) and worked primarily at strong safety. Roman Harper played just 34 percent (19 plays).

In Week 2, Harper played 90 percent of the defensive snaps (65 plays) at strong safety, and Godfrey played just 10 percent (seven plays).

Rivera said the Panthers will continue to rotate players at that position based on the opposing team's personnel and strengths.

"We like to rotate based on situations," Rivera said. "Early on, when (the Lions) were coming out in certain packages, we thought it would be better for Roman. If it had been a different type package, it might have been Charles a little more.

"It was the potential for the inside running game," Rivera added. "They ran the ball pretty well last week against the Giants, and that was one of the concerns that we had."

BENJAMIN PUTS DROPS BEHIND HIM: Rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin recorded a modest two catches for 46 yards on eight targets against the Lions – although his one-handed 24-yard catch was anything but modest.

Benjamin also had several frustrating drops, but he doesn't expect that to continue.

"I just didn't pull them in," Benjamin said. "I just have to get better and move on from them, come back this week and try not to drop any."

Minus the drops, the coaches were pleased with Benjamin's performance. Benjamin said he received a 93 overall grade, which factors in blocking, route-running, etc. In Week 1, when he had six catches for 92 yards and one touchdown, the rookie received a 70 grade.

"I think for the most part I did well," Benjamin said. "Other guys stepped up in the game and made plays.

"At the end of the day, it is all about the team."

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