DeAngelo Williams, admiring his own work (USAT)
There's a good chance DeAngelo Williams has played his final snap for the Carolina Panthers. The club finally seems to realize that it's overloaded at the running back position, especially on the balance sheet, and Williams will likely be cut after the year.
If that's the case, the 29-year-old veteran put together a snappy audition tape at New Orleans on Sunday.
Williams rolled up 210 rushing yards and two touchdowns to spark Carolina's 44-38 victory at the Superdome; load up on film, there's highlights aplenty. His 54-yard jaunt in the third period jump-started a Panthers comeback, and his 12-yard score in the fourth quarter help to salt the game away (enjoy the nifty jump over the end-zone cameraman). Earlier Williams had a 65-yard scamper that narrowly missed being a touchdown; he was ruled out at the 1-yard line.
Williams didn't have impressive numbers entering the day (the 3.5 YPC number is most concerning), but the gridlock and scheme in Carolina had a lot to do with that. It's difficult for any running back to get into a groove when he's used inconsistently, and Carolina's fascination with the zone option earlier in the year probably didn't help Williams. A lot of running backs don't feel comfortable in that type of offense, in part because they don't know when they're going to get the ball and when they're not. The Williams fumble in Week 6 was really on Cam Newton; a late and ill-fated pitch put Williams in a tough position with the Seattle defenders closing in, and he didn't have a chance to adequately secure the ball.
Jonathan Stewart didn't play in the final five Carolina games, which allowed Williams to settle into a more traditional featured role. Williams collected 82 carries for 445 yards over that stretch (boosted significantly from Sunday, of course) and added 140 receiving yards and two more touchdowns. This is a big-play threat, a home-run hitter, who is still capable of running between the tackles. Here's hoping we see Williams freed up (and heck, Stewart as well) for 2013.
And before we close the book on the Panthers for this year, let's also give a hat tip to Mike Tolbert, the Kool-Aid man. He plunged in for short touchdowns three times at New Orleans (on a 25-yard rushing day), giving him plenty of end-zone celebration time. If you don't like Mike Tolbert, you don't like ice cream.