RUNNING BACKS PREVIEW: In his first season as undisputed starter, Jonathan Stewart ranked among the most productive backs in the NFL and earned his first Pro Bowl nod. With the departure of longtime running mate DeAngelo Williams before last season, Stewart found himself flanked by a pair of rookies, and the roster is nearly identical heading into training camp.
1. Will Stewart carry as heavy a load in 2016?
Most folks didn't think Stewart would dominate the carries as much as he did last season given the Panthers' penchant for using two backs and Stewart's injury history. Stewart hasn't played 16 games since 2011, but he played the first 13 games last season with no setbacks before sitting out the final three with a foot injury that he probably could have played through if need be. He's approaching 30 and has a rugged running style, but splitting carries for years has saved some tread. The Panthers could decide to bank on him for the bulk yet again.
2. If Stewart does get more help, who will provide it?
Then again, the Panthers could get others more involved regardless of Stewart's stamina if they have gained more trust in their other options. Fozzy Whittaker is a valuable piece who already had the coaches' total trust, but he has a specialized skill set. Cameron Artis-Payne and Brandon Wegher, rookies last year, more have that "every-down" makeup. Artis-Payne said he gained a lot of confidence as the tailback of choice during Stewart's absence, and after a strong offseason, he would likely be the first choice to spell Stewart again.
3. What does the fullback spot look like?
In the first game Stewart sat out, the Panthers initially pounded the ball to fullback Mike Tolbert, a jack of all trades Carolina made sure to re-sign just before free agency began. The Panthers also added an intriguing undrafted rookie in Devon Johnson, who rushed for nearly 1,800 yards for Marshall when he moved to running back in 2014 but who has fullback size (6-0, 245 pounds) and has some experience there.
View photos of Carolina's running backs in action.