The Carolina Panthers have limped through the bulk of the 2020 season. Much of which saw them venture that route without the services of star running back Christian McCaffrey due to an ankle injury. McCaffrey‘s return to action in Week 9 against the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t take long for him to show his invaluable worth to the franchise.
Carolina struggles without their star running back
The Panthers entered the 2020 season, hoping to shake off their struggles from last year.
Carolina started the campaign in a quick 0-2 hole, which was struck by the injury bug to their star running back Christian McCaffrey. The All-Pro tailback suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that kept him out of action over the next five games.
The Panthers initially won their first two contests but fell in their next three games, with each being by eight points or fewer. Backup Mike Davis provided some serviceable production with at least 50 rushing yards four times and four total touchdowns over that span.
McCaffrey’s absence continued to become noticeable with the lack of consistent production in the running game, ranking 18th in the league. Carolina has also fallen well out of the playoffs mix, sitting three games behind NFC South-leading Buccaneers heading into Week 9 action.
Unsurprisingly, the star running back’s return to the fold against the Chiefs quickly saw him prove his worth to the franchise.
Christian McCaffrey adds another impressive feat to his NFL career
Following missing action for the last five-plus weeks, Christian McCaffrey returned to the field against the Kansas City Chiefs.
McCaffrey wasted little time making a significant impact as he scored a nine-yard receiving touchdown on the opening drive. According to NFL Research, the 24-year-old’s 16 receiving touchdowns since entering the league in 2017 are the most over that span.
In his first game back, McCaffrey tallied more than 150 yards from scrimmage with two total touchdowns. His production included securing all 10 targets for receptions for 82 receiving yards.
The star running back has become arguably the league’s best all-around talent at his position. McCaffrey is the first running back to secure more than 100 receptions in back-to-back campaigns and is coming off a single-season record for his position with 116 catches.
His production last season also saw him join Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig as the only running backs to record 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same year. McCaffrey has become the central focus of the Panthers’ offense, which his return should bode well for the team’s future in the rest of the 2020 season and beyond.
Panthers eyeing bright future ahead
Although the Panthers will likely voice otherwise, the 2020 season is clearly a rebuilding campaign.
Carolina is progressively making the transition under first-year head coach Matt Rhule. The team has shown some promising signs but remain distanced from competing for a Super Bowl.
Offseason addition Teddy Bridgewater has played respectably well while he finally looks completely healthy from the gruesome knee injury he suffered before the 2016 campaign. Bridgewater has the keys to the franchise as the starting quarterback while having the ultimate security blanket alongside him with Christian McCaffrey.
Offseason addition Robby Anderson has shined in his first campaign with the Panthers as their clear-cut top receiving option. The Panthers will continue to lean heavily on McCaffrey to play a significant part in their offensive game plan.
The responsibility will be not to wear down their star running back over the next four years under his record-breaking $64 million deal. Starting with McCaffrey and Bridgewater, Carolina could have something special in place that can get them back into becoming a playoff constant.
The rest will rely on the Panthers putting a talented roster around their core group to finally push them forward.