Stewart totaled four yards on two carries in Wednesday's preseason opener versus the Texans.
Stewart only played a couple of series before handing the reins over to rookie Christian McCaffrey. Although McCaffrey is expected to play a large part in Carolina's offense this term, Stewart is rightfully the team's No. 1 running back, explaining why he was hardly involved to start the exhibition slate.
Stewart echoed much of the early sentiment by heaping praise on McCaffrey following Sunday's practice, saying nobody will be able to cover the rookie one-on-one, but the veteran remains a dangerous backfield option himself. At 5'10", 240 pounds, Stewart's physical presence has been a staple of Carolina's running game in recent years, and he'll continue as the team's preferred option in early-down and short-yard situations this term. In that role, Stewart averaged nearly 70 rushing yards while totaling 16 touchdowns in 26 games over the past two seasons. That came with little competition for snaps, but with McCaffrey projecting as a dynamic pass catcher, he and Stewart figure to complement each other nicely, leaving plenty production to be split between the Panthers' new backfield partnership.
Stewart is not concerned about his role heading into the upcoming campaign, when coach Ron Rivera has insisted he'll continue to see the bulk of Carolina's carries, Max Henson of Panthers.com reports.
Stewart has been the Panthers' backfield workhorse ever since DeAngelo Williams departed in 2015. Without Williams around, the 10-year veteran Stewart has posted two of his four best seasons in terms of rushing yards. However, besides quarterback Cam Newton, Carolina has lacked another dangerous ground threat. Consequently, the Panthers drafted Christian McCaffrey eighth overall this year, giving Stewart another backfield mate. McCaffrey's versatile skill set should result in him being used in a variety of ways, but Carolina's coaching staff maintains Stewart will be the team's top option when it comes to running the ball. That seemingly solidifies the expectation that Stewart will lead the Panthers in carries, which is obviously a beneficial feature of his fantasy stock.
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman expects No. 8 overall draft pick Christian McCaffrey to have an immediate impact in the Carolina backfield complementing Stewart and Cam Newton, Bryan Strickland of the team's official website reports.
Gettleman said he's particularly impressed by McCaffrey's vision and quickness while running between the tackles -- perhaps suggesting the rookie could be an immediate threat to usurp Stewart's role as the early-down workhorse. At the very least, McCaffrey figures to have a key role catching passes while also eating into some of Stewart's rushing workload. Despite signing a one-year extension this offseason, the 30-year-old running back could be forced into a complementary role. The extension did reduce his 2017 cap hit, which should keep his spot on the roster secure.
Previously entering the final season of a five-year, $36.5 million contract he signed in 2012, the 30-year-old running back was scheduled for a 2017 cap hit of $8.25 million. The extension likely redistributes some of that charge to 2018, ending any speculation about the possibility Stewart could be released. He had 218 carries for 824 yards (3.8 YPC) and nine touchdowns in 13 games last season, missing at least three contests for a fifth consecutive year. The Panthers could still select a running back early in the upcoming draft.
|P2||8/19/17||@ TEN||3:00 pm|
|P3||8/24/17||@ JAC||7:30 pm|
|1||9/10/17||@ SF||4:25 pm|
|4||10/1/17||@ NE||1:00 pm|
|5||10/8/17||@ DET||1:00 pm|
|7||10/22/17||@ CHI||1:00 pm|
|8||10/29/17||@ TB||1:00 pm|
|Bye: Week 11|
|12||11/26/17||@ NYJ||1:00 pm|
|13||12/3/17||@ NO||1:00 pm|
|17||12/31/17||@ ATL||1:00 pm|
|Year||Team||G||Fum||Lost||Fum Forced||Own Rec||Opp Rec||Yds||Tot Rec||TD|