The "Double Trouble" combo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart will begin its second year as an NFL duo in a few months. The twosome's friendship seems to have only strengthened in the offseason -- they were together at a wrestling event in Charlotte Monday night.
Much is the same -- DeAngelo is the verbose one, Stewart the quiet one. DeAngelo did many of the Panthers' workouts in the just-concluded summer school practices. Stewart was sidelined once again, this time with an Achilles tendon problem (last year it was a toe injury that required surgery).
That meant a lot of teasing for Stewart, of course. "They’re out there busting their butts and I’m just sitting on the sideline for the second year in a row," Stewart said Tuesday. "I’ve been taking some heat for that."
Stewart also said Tuesday that he believed he and Williams could be even better this season. "I don’t see why we should lower our expectations from last year," Stewart said. "I think me and DeAngelo are capable of more."
I don't think so, however, in terms of one important statistic -- total touchdowns.
It's fine for Stewart and DeAngelo to think they will be better in every respect. And it's very possible in one sense -- the Panthers might get further than their final-eight finish in the NFL last season.
But statistically? Williams had an NFL-high 20 TDs and a team-record 1,515 rushing yards last season -- it was a Pro Bowl year that was wrongly snubbed. Stewart had 836 rushing yards and 10 TDs. Maybe those two will combine for more than 2,300 rushing yards once again -- I could see that in theory, or even a sliight increase. But 30 TDs? That's an average of nearly two per game. It remains a stunning number of scores.
It stands to reason that NFL defenses will stack eight in the box even more against the Panthers this season to account for Nos.28 and 34. I think what will end up happening is the total number of TDs for "Double Trouble" will go down, but the number of passing TDs (Jake Delhomme had a modest 15 TD passes last season) will go up.
In any case, the Panthers' offense -- with 11 of 11 starters back -- remains the strength of this team. But I'll predict right now that Double Trouble's total number of TDs will slide down the scale slightly from 30 to somewhere in the 20-22 range.