With last year's 2000 yard, 3rd overall rated running attack, Carolina identified two backs better in their class than anyone they've had - Deangelo Williams set new marks for TDs and yards, while Jonathan Stewart shattered team rookie marks (Stewart's season was 9th best all time for the franchise despite having only one year - just behind 8-9 year players Nick Goings and Brad Hoover). But with a tough schedule in store, and with the team unwilling to rest on its laurels for 2009, they went back to the well to get Mike Goodson. So what can he bring that the other two can't?
The dynamic duo of 2008 can do almost anything, and neither gives away anything to the other - running inside, outside, catching the ball, blocking. Both are complete players. But they likely didn't just bring Goodson in for a few draws and swing passes. Taller and thinner than either Williams or Stewart, he brings receiver ability and specialization to the fold.
The Panthers drafted Goodson and immediately intended him to return kicks, and identified him as being able to play the slot receiver - . What this does more speficially, however, is let them have a specialized player that they can mold week to week to what they need. Most of the below won't be things they couldn't do with Williams or Stewart, but the convenience and specialization would still be better suited to a player like Goodson.
*mimic - One of the easiest things for a team to do is recreate what another team did. If Carolina hasn't run a bubble screen out of trips right, but the Falcons use it against a common opponent to success, it works. If the Saints torch the Patriots with Reggie Bush, for an unlikely example, by running a series of plays designed for him, the Panthers can try those snaps without having to prepare the starters for it, leaving more room for detail.
*Wildcat. The Panthers have never mentioned this as a possibility. Goodson, as well, has never played significant time at quarterback, having been a tailback since high school. Deangelo Williams always used to take these snaps, since 2006; that was before he was a premier back, and if the Panthers want to use anything like this, they can take aside Goodson without keeping Williams from preparing for the base snaps.
*slot. As mentioned before, the Panthers have made it clear they want Goodson to try this role as well. Having a tailback split wide gives you numerous things a WR (especially less-experienced WRs like our backups) won't have experience with - taking pitches, handoffs, ballcarrying behind blocking. Most flanker screens end up setting up similar situations to RB screens, and having a RB on reverses or blocking inside for outside runs would be a benefit.
*Practice. It's not something you draft a RB to fill, but Goodson does fit a different mold than the other RBs, and therefore can act out an opponent's actions in more detail than the starters would. Scouting for an opponent would also show some of the ways that Goodson can perform we hadn't thought through.
*Formation versatility. It goes without saying that a player who can play RB or WR helps you - but when you can go into an empty set from a one-back formation, or split from motion and still have that WR ability, it sets things up. Putting Goodson out with Williams or Stewart leaves the ability to put either back in motion or line up either player anywhere.