As one Carolina Panthers running back starts to look like the rusher of old while the other one gets older, Carolina coach Ron Rivera is still hesitant to name the more effective back the starter.
Jonathan Stewart rushed 20 times for 155 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s 41-10 victory over the New Orleans Saints, but it was still not enough for Rivera to definitively name Stewart the team’s starter.
A team source has indicated to the Observer that the coaching staff feels Stewart is better feeding off Williams rather than starting the game, and that he didn’t respond like the staff would have liked him to when he was named the starter midway through the 2012 season.
But with Williams sidelined with a broken hand, Stewart took control of the running game and had the second-best performance of his seven-year career.
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“The number (of carries) he got we felt was the number we were looking for,” Rivera said. “Now if he gets more than that, so be it. If he gets less than that, so be it. We’re going to use him the way the flow of the game goes.
“(DeAngelo) certainly is part of the mix of guys we have. He’s part of who we are as a football team.”
Stewart did not start against the Vikings two weeks ago but had 12 carries for 85 yards in the 31-13 loss at Minnesota. Williams fractured a bone in his hand during that game.
Williams has had trouble gripping the ball and hasn’t been able to practice. Rivera reiterated Monday that Williams is day-to-day.
While Williams is on pace for the worst full season of his career, Stewart has rushed for more yards in the past two games (240) than Williams has all season (219 yards in six games).
“(Stewart) has played well the last two weeks, but DeAngelo is a really good runner, too,” Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. “In my mind, I see it as a good mix and a good changeup. Each of them does a lot of things very similarly and yet they’re kind of different in their own ways.”
When Williams returns, there will be carries for him, Rivera said.
“We’re not going to do things because it’s what everybody expects or thinks,” Rivera said. “We’re going to do things because that’s how things are working and successful.”