Carolina Panthers: Could Christian McCaffrey Be Done By His Sixth Season?

Christian McCaffrey, Panthers, NFL
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers have one of the best backs in the NFL with Christian McCaffrey. In his three years in the league, McCaffrey proved that he was taken too low with the 8th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. In 2019, McCaffrey set history books ablaze as just the third running back to achieve that elusive 1000/1000 season. But was it too much?

A feat like that is downright remarkable on a few levels. For starters, McCaffrey is a rare specimen for running backs as most average just 11 games per season. In his three years, McCaffrey has missed no games. Another thing to factor in for him is that defenses know he’s getting that ball. It doesn’t matter if it’s running or catching. The Panthers have a pretty predictable offense, especially with Cam Newton out. And yet, no one has been able to hold him to average numbers.

While he’s been out of this world, the Panthers must be careful not to burn him out like the Tennessee Titans did with Chris Johnson or the Arizona Cardinals just recently did with David Johnson. Both were running backs on their way to achieving great things but couldn’t maintain that level due to the workload.

As great as McCaffrey has been, the Panthers must be praying that he’s still around to sign a huge contract extension. In just three full seasons, McCaffrey has rushed the ball 623 times while catching it 303 times. Doing the math, that’s hits that he has taken on an average that’s reserved for wide receivers and tight ends.

At some point, the Carolina Panthers will need to reduce his workload. While it may not make sense in the short-term, they really must consider his and their future. McCaffrey will be a free agent in 2021. If the Panthers keep losing while running him into the ground, McCaffrey may look elsewhere for less just to preserve his career.

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No one wants to become the next David Johnson or even worse, Larry Johnson.

Heading into the 2020 NFL season, the Carolina Panthers main concern is upgrading their offense. Last season, the best receiver outside of McCaffrey was DJ Moore with 87 receptions. A good measuring stick for McCaffrey’s failure or success is Newton. If the rumors are true and Newton is expected to return, that should cut into McCaffrey’s touches and reduce some of his usage. This is a good plan.

Christian McCaffrey is one of those backs that come around every 10 years or so. He’s fast, has great vision, not afraid of contact, a good blocker, and he can catch the ball. But that does come with a price. Are there anymore Emmit Smith’s left?

So far, he has had a great run through three seasons. Right now, it’s about slowly taking some of the pressure of him and allowing others to step into the spotlight. Chris Johnson was the same way with the Titans for the first six years of his career. Then just like that, he became an afterthought. The Panthers must be careful that doesn’t happen with McCaffrey.

3 Comments

  1. I’ve had this same thought for a long time, 2019 proved it, and your stats confirm it.

    This is why the Panthers must draft RB A. J. Dillon (6’9 3/8″, 247, 31 5/8″ stats, 8 5/8″ hands, 4.53-39, 1,53-10, 23 bench reps 41″ vertical, 10’11” broad jump), he’s Derrick Henry 2.0, and maybe even slightly better. Dillon rushed for 1,000+ yards every season, and 1,699+ yards in 2 of those seasons.

    Dillon can also play FB like role, along with McCaffrey, allowing McCaffrey so motion outside as a WR, who along with WR Moore could give the Panthers a 100 cath receiving threat on each side of the field, with a strong Derrick Henry like rushing threat in the backfield. Dillon also gives the Panthers a strong short-yardage power RB. to further reduce the pounding on McCaffery.

    • Sorry I left this out of my post.

      In 2018 McCaffery had 2019 carries, but in 2019 his carries increased by around 60, as a result he was very tired in the last half of the season. didn’t have a single 100 yard rushing game during that time, and his YPC average dropped greatly during this time.

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