CHARLOTTE – It’s pretty clear at this point in the season the Carolina Panthers prefer to have Cam Newton run the ball inside the 10-yard line rather than their talented running back duo.
Newton has received the vast majority of carries inside the 10 and leads the team with five rushing touchdown.
That's one shy of the team's single-season record held by Chris Weinke and we're just five games into the season.
“That’s one place where it’s so compact that it’s hard to get good numbers and so with the quarterback as a runner your numbers even out so that you can get hats on hats a little easier,” offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said of his preference to run Newton in that area.
GAITHER’S KNEE: The Panthers have lost linebacker Omar Gaither for two to four weeks to a sprained MCL.
“I don’t know how I did it,” Gaither said. “I landed kind of wrong on it and tweaked it a little bit. But it’s not too bad.”
Gaither got his first start with the Panthers on Sunday, but left in the first half and did not return. He was replaced by Jason Williams.
GOODSON INACTIVE: Mike Goodson said he didn’t know why he was inactive Sunday against the Saints, but made it sound like he’ll get another chance this week against the Falcons.
“Everything looks good,” Goodson said.
Coach Ron Rivera benched Goodson hoping he would respond to the challenge.
“I think as far as my position I’m behind two good guys at running back, so those reps are going to be limited off the top,” Goodson said. “With the kick return game we haven’t had a lot of production, so I think that’s what the challenge is.”
Goodson hasn’t seen any reps on offense and it doesn’t sound like that is going to change anytime soon.
When asked if there is a role for Goodson in this offense, Chudzinski replied, “We’ll see. I like where we’re at with guys and their roles right now. I like everybody having a role and we’ll kind of see how that works out.”
THE RUNNING GAME: Jeff Otah played a full game for the first time this season Sunday.
That’s partly because the Panthers didn’t get as many offensive plays as in past games – because the Saints controlled the clock – and because Otah is rounding into better shape.
Otah has been getting spelled by rookie Byron Bell, but his conditioning is starting to improve with each passing week.
“I’m feeling better than I did in game one,” Otah said. “I’m working in hard in practice to build that (conditioning) back up.”
MAKING STRIDES: Otah said he was excited to see the Panthers make more strides in the running game on Sunday against the Saints.
Carolina has run for more than 160 yards in each of the last two games after struggling the first three weeks of the season.
“We did some good things out there,” Otah said. “Guys came out with a strong emphasis on trying to move guys off the ball and have good double teams and get on linebackers. We just have to keep working.”