During his rookie campaign, Christian McCaffrey had just one carry go for more than 18 yards — a 40-yard scamper in Week 12. In Friday night’s preseason tilt versus the Miami Dolphins, the running back blitzed through a gaping hole for a 71-yarder on the Carolina Panthers‘ opening drive.
McCaffrey, who put on muscle this offseason, has been impressive this summer. Yes, it was just five carries, but the running back displayed burst in the hole, speed on the second level, and a willingness to take on contact. Even if you take away his 71-yard jaunt, CMC averaged 5.25 yards per tote on his other four carries Friday night. He also flashed his trademark dual-threat ability, catching four passes for 28 yards, including a long of 18.
It’s been McCaffrey’s ability to earn yards between the tackles that has impressed this offseason after he fell short in that area as a rookie.
"In college, you go back to his two years, and nobody ran between the tackles more than he did," head coach Ron Rivera said Friday night, via the team’s official website. "We always thought he has that kind of ability, and he’s got the quickness. So we’re very confident and comfortable in what we think he can do."
The Panthers anticipate giving a heavy workload to McCaffrey, even with the addition of C.J. Anderson. Rivera has suggested multiple times this offseason an outsized prediction of 25-30 touches for the 5-foot-11 McCaffrey.
"He’s a dynamic player," quarterback Cam Newton said of McCaffrey. "We always laugh and tease about it, but he’s a primetime player that you just have to find ways to get him the football. He’s still not satisfied, and that’s what I love about him the most.
"Also, he’s extremely physical and I don’t think he gets that much credit for that."
McCaffrey, the No. 8 overall pick last season, isn’t fretting those who still question whether he can be a between-the-tackles runner in the NFL.
"I’m just here to play ball, not answer anybody’s questions," McCaffrey responded when asked if he’s starting to answer questions about his ability to run inside.