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Buffalo Bills opponent scouting report: running back Jonathan Stewart

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The veteran isn’t flashy, but he is a very good football player

When the Buffalo Bills take on the Carolina Panthers Sunday afternoon, much of the team’s defensive focus will be centered on quarterback Cam Newton. However, the Panthers’ running game packs a formidable one-two punch, as the team added rookie Christian McCaffrey to solid veteran Jonathan Stewart. While the former garnered most of the headlines ahead of Carolina’s dominant opening-day victory over the San Francisco 49ers, it was the latter who had the better day overall. This one week is a microcosm of Stewart’s whole career—a perennial afterthought, Stewart has quietly been a solid runner for the duration of his career.

Drafted by the Panthers in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft, he made an immediate impact as the yin to Deangelo Williams’s yang in the Carolina offense. He scored 10 touchdowns as a rookie, adding 836 yards on the ground. In 2009, he tallied his only 1,000-yard season, rushing for 1,133 yards and 10 more touchdowns. Working in a two-back system for the duration of his career, he’s never quite had the chance to put up eye-popping numbers, but he’s always been a solid contributor to Carolina’s offensive attack.

While many expected the rookie McCaffrey to supplant the 30 year-old veteran, it seems that Carolina has carved out a role for both players. In terms of touches, Stewart had 20 overall in week one (18 carries, 2 receptions) while McCaffrey totaled 18 (13 carries, 5 receptions). McCaffrey out-snapped Stewart by quite a bit (47 to 29 in favor of the rookie), but the fact that Stewart touched the football on over two-thirds of his snaps is indicative of his importance to the offense.

Even though Christian McCaffrey is the shiny new toy in the box, it doesn’t mean that the Bills should forget about the old stalwart in Stewart. The Bills would be wise to limit Stewart’s opportunities on Sunday.