Panthers' Williams is all about winning

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- DeAngelo Williams was surrounded on Thursday.

Not by defensive players.

By reporters.

But they might as well have been tacklers the way the Carolina Panthers running back was pounded with questions about whether or not the knee injury to fellow back Jonathan Stewart might benefit him because he will get more carries.

If he's as elusive on Sunday against the New York Jets' second-ranked run defense, the eight-year veteran may be in for a big day.

Here's a portion of how this session went:

Me: "I know you're unselfish with how many carries you get here ..."

Williams (interrupted in mid-question): "We're unselfish with the ball all together ... receiving, rushing. We're playing the ultimate team game here."

Me: "But it seems you get in a groove the more you're on the field, right?"

Williams: "In terms of what? Playing winning football or individual football?"

Me: "Both."

Williams: "It can't be both."

Me: "OK, break it down both ways."

Williams: "I can only break it down one way, and that's winning. It doesn't matter about statistics. It's about getting the 'W,' and doing what it takes to do that."

Me: "Let me try this another way. You're at the point in the season where a year ago you took off with a lot of yards. And you were getting a lot more carries then. So ... "

Williams: "Those games last year, a lot of running was involved for us to win those game. I can't tell right now what it's going to take right now to win these games ... But I can tell you this, though. We're in the playoff hunt this year as opposed to last season."

Another reporter: "You take a lot of stock in that?"

Williams: "Individual performances doesn't necessarily get you in the playoffs. I'm sure you could name a lot of guys that are on teams that are not in the playoff hunt that are leading the league statistically. They look great.

"At the same time, this is a team game. We tend to lose sight of that sometimes because we're in a numbers driven world."

Me: "Fantasy football drives that."

Williams (laughs): "Yeah, it drives it a lot. But the only thing that matters on this team, and I'm sure on every team, is winning football games."

I could go on, but you get the point. Williams isn't budging when it comes to his value when getting more carries versus sharing them with Stewart and Mike Tolbert -- and, of course, quarterback Cam Newton, who has led the team in rushing much of the past month.

Statistics, however, indicate Williams is a more productive back when getting more carries. In seven games this season, his average is 38.1 yards rushing when he gets less than 15 carries. The number average jumps to 72.6 yards when he gets 15 or more.

Last year, Williams averaged 29.1 yard in 13 game with less than 15 carries. He averaged 119.6 in the three in which he had 15 or more.

The same holds true for his most productive season, 2008. In five games with less than 15 carries he averaged 58.6 yards. In the 11 in which he had at least 15 carries he averaged 105.1.

Only four times in 108 games has Williams rushed for more than 100 yards with less than 15 carries. The last time was 2011, when he had 115 yards on nine carries against New Orleans.

This would suggest Williams is a rhythm back, meaning the more carries he gets the more productive he gets. Coach Ron Rivera is hoping that's the case with Stewart out at least the next two games with a slight tear in his MCL.

"I'm excited for DeAngelo," Rivera said. "I've been excited for DeAngelo all year because he does things the right way. He practices and plays hard."

Williams also says the right thing. Whether he believes he gets better with more carries or not, he's all about being the team player. If that means six carries or 60, he'll do what he's asked.

"Winning is what it boils down to," he said. "For me to get comfortable, it doesn't take long at all."

ESPN fantasy football expert Matthew Berry said in a video this is not a good matchup for owners thinking of starting Williams. "You'd have to be really desperate to start DeAngelo Williams," he said.

He's right in the Jets are stout against the run, holding teams to an average of 82.6 yards a game, bettered only by the Panthers at 79.4. They also have given up 125 and 150 yard in the last two games, so they're not invincible.

Williams isn't making any predictions.

"They do a lot of things up front to try to disrupt you on offense," he said. "We'll see how it shapes up."