Williams, Johnson expected back

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Running back DeAngelo Williams and defensive end Charles Johnson are expected to return to practice on Friday, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after holding both players out on Thursday.

Williams (quad) will start Sunday against Atlanta barring a setback despite the expected return of Jonathan Stewart (ankle), who remains on the physically unable to perform list even though he has taken the majority of the snaps at tailback the past two days.

Johnson (groin) also is expected to be ready for the Falcons. The biggest question mark appears to be linebacker Chase Blackburn (foot), but he too is expected to play.

A bonus will be defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, who appears set to play for the time since aggravating a hamstring injury during a Week 2 loss at Buffalo.

Edwards started the first two games this season and 30 over the previous two seasons -- 14 for the Panthers in 2012 and 16 for Buffalo in 2011. Colin Cole has started in his place over the past five games and will continued to do so.

"We'll work him in,'' Rivera said. "I'm not exposing him to 45 to 50 snaps.''

Rivera said it's nice to be getting most of the team healthy following a run of three straight wins and four in the past five games that has Carolina (4-3) over .500 for the first time since 2008.

"We're hoping it's a playoff run,'' he said.