When the Panthers signed former Chargers free-agent RB Mike Tolbert two weeks ago, many wondered what the team was thinking, in light of the fact that it already had DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson under contract at running back.
It’s becoming clearer now, with the team having traded Goodson to Oakland on Friday and head coach Ron Rivera recently telling the Charlotte Observer that he intends to use Tolbert primarily at fullback rather than tailback.
“If you look at what happened last year with our offense, we didn’t have a pure, true fullback in terms of a guy that has the ability to not just block, but go out into the routes, run the flat route and catch the ball, run the pivot route and catch the ball, pass-protect on a consistent basis,” Rivera told the Observer.
“Everybody keeps saying (Tolbert is) a tailback. But he’s a fullback to us. Because again, we saw how we had used him in San Diego. We just thought this is a guy we’d love to have. ... If you can put an athletic, playmaking fullback there, I think it helps you.”
Both Rivera and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski were on the Chargers’ coaching staff for a time when Tolbert played there, giving them additional insight into his capabilities.
The way we see it
With Tolbert slated to play fullback, the Panthers are less likely to trade Stewart, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. And, if the team is unable or unwilling to re-sign Stewart after next season, Tolbert will offer a reasonable Plan B. And don’t forget that Williams, who's under contract through 2015, will turn 30 next offseason.