Christian McCaffrey is the second-best running back in this league behind a certain monster that resides in Tenessee. McCaffrey doesn’t shy from contact and plays with heart and ferocity that at any other time in this league would make him the best.
Part of what makes his performances so impressive is the fact he does it as Carolina’s primary weapon with little support from a middling offensive line. Still, Carolina leans on McCaffrey to a fault. Leaning on their star to carry them and keep them in ballgames.
Against the Jets, Texans, and Saints McCaffrey totaled 68-touches in those three games which fail to completely tell the volume considering McCaffrey got hurt in the first half against Houston.
Christian McCaffrey was being asked to do too much coming off of an injury
All of last season McCaffrey only had 59-carries and was well on his way to surpassing that total in his first three games. In 2020 McCaffrey had an ankle injury and never was able to get fully healthy for the rest of the year.
Coming into the season Carolina needed to lean on Sam Darnold more and Christian McCaffrey just a bit less in a tight NFC South. McCaffrey’s injury may have happened no matter the workload Carolina heaped on the young running back.
However, McCaffrey was being asked to carry an offense that should have been able to lean on the running back a bit less against the Jets and Texans. His injury serves as a cautionary tale to the rest of the NFC South and the league, take care of your star player.
Leaning on McCaffrey too much as the running back was getting back into the flow of the offense came back to bite the Panthers. They needed to protect their star from himself who to a fault never shies from contact and is always going to try and run through the defender.
His physicality compared to his build demands Carolina throw him the ball in space and limit his carries as he came back trying to stay healthy. Something he will be unable to do as long as Carolina refuses to give Sam Darnold more responsibility.
Something Darnold is going to have to prove he can handle now that McCaffrey is out. Unfortunate injuries happen, however, Carolina is culpable for this one and allowing McCaffrey to carry too heavy a load three weeks into the NFL season.