Projecting How the Panthers Will Utilize Each Running Back

Who will be the starter in Carolina? The No. 2 guy? Short-yardage back? We break it all down.
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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The Carolina Panthers' running back room is pretty crowded. With the additions of Jonathon Brooks and Rashaad Penny, Carolina now has five backs that they feel good about heading into the 2024 season.

Head coach Dave Canales has stated on numerous occasions of his intent to run the ball and in order to commit to it, you need a full stable. Now that he's got the horses, how does he go about deploying them?

1. Chuba Hubbard

Carolina Panthers running back Chuba Hubbard (30) during pregame warm ups. Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Projected role - Split starter

I think the expectation by many is that Hubbard is going to walk into the season as the unquestioned starter. I'm not completely sold. Dave Canales gives off the vibe that he's going into this thing with an open mind, wiping the slate clean from a year ago. Hubbard can certainly win the job, but it hasn't been earned...yet.

2. Miles Sanders

Carolina Panthers running back Miles Sanders (6) with the ball vs. Cowboys. Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Projected role - Split starter

Sanders carries the 8th-largest cap hit on the Panthers' roster. I understand roles aren't determined by how much you get paid or how you were acquired, but when you're paying a running back that much money you need to give the guy every opportunity to redeem himself. In his defense, the offensive line was a mess in 2023, leaving him little room to do his job.

3. Jonathon Brooks

Texas Longhorns running back Jonathon Brooks (24) fights for yardage. Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman
Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman

Projected role - Rotational/eventual starter

It's going to take some time for Brooks to get back to 100% both physically and mentally after tearing his ACL last season. That's an injury that takes a lot of patience and for a young back trying to establish himself in the league, it can be a difficult hurdle to get over. I'm not expecting Dave Canales to put much on his plate in the early going, mainly because he has a room full of veterans. Once he gains full confidence in his knee and in his understanding of the offense, we'll see him take over as RB1.

4. Rashaad Penny

Carolina Panthers RB Rashaad Penny during his time with the Seattle Seahawks. Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Projected role - Short yardage/goal line

Penny has dealt with a number of injuries throughout his career, preventing him from becoming a top 30 or so back in the league. But when he is healthy, he's productive. In years he's played 10 or more games, Penny has averaged 4.9 yards, 5.7, and 6.3 per carry. His 220-pound frame is something the Panthers didn't have a year ago and can help them move the chains in short-yardage situations.

5. Raheem Blackshear

Carolina Panthers running back Raheem Blackshear (3) with the ball. Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Projected role - Kick returner/depth back

Personally, I've never liked Blackshear's potential as a rotational back. He's someone that can give you a carry or two every now and then, but not a guy that will carve out a role in the backfield. In his 37 career rushing attempts, Blackshear is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. He does add value as a returner, though, averaging 27 yards per return.


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