Dave Canales provides clarity on Carolina Panthers' running back congestion

The competition is fierce within the Carolina Panthers running back room.
Dave Canales
Dave Canales / Jacob Kupferman/GettyImages

The Carolina Panthers running back room is a crowded place right now. Head coach Dave Canales made no secret of his desire to be stubborn and purposeful in the run game. Something that can provide more balance and make things easier for quarterback Bryce Young during a critical second season.

Carolina had Chuba Hubbard and Miles Sanders under contract heading into the offseason. Raheem Blackshear was brought back on a one-year deal. However, that didn't prevent the Panthers from utilizing free agency and the draft to enhance competition and raise urgency in pursuit of brighter fortunes with Canales leading the charge.

Trading up to No. 46 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft for Jonathon Brooks comes with significant intrigue attached. The former Texas star is still recovering from a torn ACL and Carolina will be patient with his recovery. Once he's able to participate, it won't take long before his talent surges above Hubbard atop the depth chart.

Carolina Panthers running back dynamic is something to monitor

The Panthers weren't done there. After the draft concluded, they added Rashaad Penny. This came with more than a few raised eyebrows, but Canales provided more clarification around the decision and how it can benefit the franchise via Fan Nation during Carolina's rookie minicamp.

“I really feel like we need all these guys. There’s been several years where we used our practice squad running backs as well. It’s the guys that can do more than just the offensive part. Do they give us value on (special) teams? Rashaad [Penny] is another guy that can return kicks. He’s done that in his career, so bringing him in to really push the group but also, he knows the language, he knows how to run certain run types. So as he gets his reps, the guys will be able to see the pace that we’re looking for.”

Competition is healthy. Competition should bring out the best in these players. Competition also reveals plenty about someone's inner desire and their ability to perform in the face of added pressure. That's what the Panthers are trying to install across their roster and the running back room is another prime example of their ethos becoming reality.

Penny's presence keeps everyone honest, at the very least. It also takes the heat of Brooks' rehabilitation. There is no need to rush him back - which can often lead to potential complications - so the veteran provides the Panthers with an insurance policy until their new prized backfield possession is 100 percent.

Of course, Penny's had his fair share of injury problems over the last two seasons. But Canales feels like his experience and previous knowledge of the coach's schematic demands should make this transition to a different environment go smoothly. Tarik Cohen and Spencer Brown made way, but neither was projected to come anywhere close to the 53-man roster under Carolina's new regime.

It'll be fascinating to see how this dynamic unfolds throughout the preparation period. Carolina has plenty of options who'll all get a shot to showcase their worth. Capitalizing on every rep coming their way behind a much-improved offensive line is paramount.

Anything else is out of their hands.