NewsChannel 36 Sports Director
Are the Panthers sacrificing future success for a playoff shot that's a pipe dream? Is DeAngelo Williams taking too much punishment?
The shot from Darren Sharper should have knocked DeAngelo Williams out. One Saints defender had Williams around the legs and Sharper saw his chance to punish one of the best running backs in the league. He was careful to lead with his shoulder; lowered himself into "strike position" and unloaded on DeAngelo's chest. Williams recoiled backwards and crumpled to the turf.
It's amazing that DeAngelo not only continued but excelled against New Orleans. But how long can this last? How long can the Panthers pound away at 8 man fronts, while those defenders load up for their own knockout punches on Carolina's running backs? This is the "hidden cost" of Carolina's inability to throw the football.
DeAngelo Williams has made himself into an elite NFL running back. He's 26 years old, and he has to know that 30 is the expiration date for so many elite backs who pound away and get pounded on. Look at Ladainian Tomlinson. He's hit the wall and won't ever be an elite force again. Same song for Shaun Alexander after his MVP season in Seattle. The list goes on.
Carolina has done a great job limiting Williams' carries -- 273 last year stands as his career high. Compare that to 7 straight years over 300 carries for LT, with a career high of 372 back in 2002. Williams is on track to hit 298 carries this year. So many of those are "hard carries" for "hard yards" when teams load up close to the line of scrimmage. Compare that to what I saw from Alexander when I covered the Seahawks -- Seattle's west coast passing attack opened a lot of running lanes.
It's still early in DeAngelo's career, particularly based on the limited carries he got the first two seasons. But he'll feel the pounding he's taking now long after the season is over. The clock is ticking. Williams turns 30 in 3/12 years.