Norv Turner values RBs, but Jonathan Stewart's Panthers future is murky

From ESPN - January 12, 2018

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Norv Turner has worked with four of the NFL's top 10 all-time leading rushers and five of the top 12 as either an offensive coordinator or head coach since entering the league in 1985.

Among those is former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith, who tops the list at 18,355 yards.

Turner has worked with nine of the NFL's top 60 all-time rushers. Will he make that 10 with the Carolina Panthers, with whom he agreed in principle Thursday night to become their next offensive coordinator?

Jonathan Stewart, who ranks 59th with 7,318 yards, has one year left on his contract after signing an extension last offseason. He turns 31 in March.

Stewart's productivity dropped significantly this past season with the arrival of Christian McCaffrey. Stewart's 680 yards rushing were his fewest since 2013, when injuries limited him to six games and one start. His 3.4 yards per carry represented a career low. He rushed for six touchdowns, equaling his second most over the past eight seasons, but three came in one game.

That Stewart is set to count $5.25 million against the 2018 salary cap and the Panthers can save $3.75 million by releasing him has raised speculation he could be let go.

It makes sense.

But Stewart said Monday, as players cleaned out their lockers the day after a 31-26 wild-card loss at New Orleans, that "I am not done yet." He talked about wanting to get back out on the field "as soon as possible" to get rid of the bittersweet feeling from the season.

As much as Turner has done for quarterbacks during his career, he's really a running back's best friend. He's had a 1,000-yard rusher in 21 of his 31 seasons as a coordinator or head coach. Smith had at least 1,500 yards rushing in each of the three seasons (1991-93) that Turner was the offensive coordinator at Dallas.

LaDainian Tomlinson led the NFL in rushing with 1,474 yards during Turner's first season as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers in 2007. San Diego finished seventh in the league in rushing with 2,039 yards.

The Minnesota Vikings, led by Adrian Peterson with 1,485 yards rushing in Turner's last full season (2015) as their offensive coordinator, ranked fourth in the NFL with 2,211 yards.


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