I’m not going to anoint Christian McCaffrey as the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year just yet. But if you ask the brass within the Carolina Panthers organization, you might get more definitive support for such an award.
McCaffrey isn’t going to be a 25-carry running back in the NFL. But he could be one of those “hybrid” backs who do it all, and make the Panthers offense a little more dangerous. If Cam Newton is slinging the football all over the field and the defense rises to the occasion, there is no reason to think otherwise. Carolina could have a “Batman and Robin” situation with Jonathan Stewart toting the football, only to be spelled by the Stanford star.
Per carolinahuddle.com, “McCaffrey will share the carries with running back Jonathan Stewart. I suspect that Stewart will carry the majority of the work on his shoulders for the first half of the season. I can’t see the Carolina Panthers throwing McCaffrey in the mix the majority of the time right away.
“This is not a very Ron Rivera thing to do, especially when it comes to pass protection and blocking a blitzing linebacker. Jonathan Stewart is one of the best blocking running backs in the NFL. This is an area McCaffrey will need to also excel in if he is to be considered a top performing rookie.”
At first, I thought the Panthers reached a but when they took McCaffrey with the eighth pick in the April NFL Draft. The Panthers may be the perfect fit for McCaffrey, one of the few NFL teams that rely so heavily on the running game. If McCaffrey can run for 800 yards and catch 50 passes in his first season, will he warrant serious consideration?
Leonard Fournette has already been anointed the frontrunner for the award. Minnesota second-round pick Dalvin Cook will share carries with Latavius Murray, but could be a factor as well. There is talk Joe Mixon may become the lead back in Cincinnati. This year’s crop of candidates is loaded.
McCaffrey comes into training camp in July with the table already det. Stewart will still be the first runner on the depth chart. The rookie will learn and work with both the first and second teams. He will be asked to fill a role similar to Darren Sproles has with New Orleans and Philadelphia. If he is successful, then all the doubters are proven wrong. When you are 5-foot-11 ad 202 pounds, there is little room for error. He is a bit on the slight side by NFL standards. But based on his college success, don’t count against him.
The Panthers surely aren’t