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Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals: Know Thy Enemy Edition

Last year the Carolina Panthers were able to build a very good team that had a pretty good defense and an offense built around their young running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Their offense would see Stewart and Williams rush for a combined 2,351 yards, with 1,515 by Williams and 836 by Stewart. Those are stellar numbers for two running backs but they haven’t been able to replicate the same success this season. Part of the problem has been the turnovers, a category in which the Panther’s lead the league. This team has had 6 fumbles lost and 14 interceptions this season through six games. This has made it very tough for this team as they get behind their opponents and it takes out a running game that was among the best last season.  This all started when the Panther’s faced the Cardinals in the playoffs and the Cards forced 6 turnovers. Ever since then, this offense has not looked the same and the Cardinals will hope to repeat what they did on Sunday. If they want to do that they will have to neutralize the Panthers run game, something the Cards have done in their past 12 games (including the playoffs). Last season the Cards neutralized Stewart pretty good, allowing just 22 yards on 11 carries for 1 touchdown. However, they allowed Williams to rush for 171 yards on 29 carries (5.9 yards per carry) and 1 touchdown. Williams will be the one to look out for in this game.

DeAngelo Williams went to college at Memphis and was one of their best players to ever play there. While at Memphis he compiled over 7,573 all purpose yards, with 6,026 of those coming on the ground. The all purpose yards are an NCAA record and the rushing yards would be good enough for fourth all-time behind Ron Dayne, Ricky Williams, and Tony Dorsett. Williams was not bad at receiving either having 70 catches that went for 723 yards and 5 touchdowns. All this would be spread over a four year career in which he would only start one game his freshman year, but the remaining three years he would start every game he played. Those are pretty impressive numbers and would end up being good enough for him in the 2006 draft. 

In the 2006 draft, it was hard to predict where Williams would go. Some had him going as a top ten pick, possibly by the Cardinals, and some had him going in the second round. Williams would end up going number 27 in the first round to the Carolina Panthers. In Williams first two years he did not get a lot of chances, having 121 rushing attempts and 33 receptions in his first season, and 144 rushing and 23 receptions in his second. This was because he was backing up DeShaun Foster. Williams would make the most of his chances by gaining 501 yards rushing on those 121 attempts and 313 yards on the 33 receptions, and would gain 717 yards on the 144 attempts and 175 yards on the 23 receptions his second year. This would lead to Williams getting his chance to start in 2008 and he did not disappoint. As stated in the opener, he would have 1,515 yards over 273 carries (5.5 yards per carry), which would go for 18 touchdowns. This year has been a different story. Williams has not had as many chances this year, in part because of the turnovers and most of these can be blamed on Jake Delhomme, who has 13 interceptions and 2 fumbles lost this season. When Delhomme is not turning the ball over, he is consistently missing open receivers, and generally making bad decisions. This had lead to the Carolina offense not being remotely close to what it was last year. This will be a key to the Cardinals winning this game.

The Cardinals will want to make the Panthers try and beat them with Delhomme and not with the run game. That is why the Cardinals must stop Williams and continue to stop Stewart like they did last season. If they can stop those two, Delhomme might be in for another long day and might even have some flashbacks to that playoff game that a lot of people believe started this whole mess for the Panthers.  Do you think the Cardinals can continue their dominance over the running game? Will Delhomme have another bad game? Or will he get his revenge for what the Cards did in the Playoffs last year?