The Carolina Panthers have gotten off to a rough start to begin the 2020 season. The team has struggled to push forward through the first two weeks, which that task has become more daunting to move past. The Panthers are now dealing with a potentially season-changing situation involving star running back Christian McCaffrey.
Panthers fall to the Buccaneers
The Panthers came into Week 2 action against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hoping to bounce back.
It wasn’t the performance the franchise needed as they struggled to get their footing offensively against the Buccaneers. Tom Brady bounced back a bit with 217 passing yards a touchdown pass while Leonard Fournette anchored the running game with 103 rushing yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns.
Teddy Bridgewater put up a valiant effort with 367 passing yards but threw a pair of interceptions, lost a fumble, and was sacked five times. Christian McCaffrey anchored their running game with two touchdowns along with 59 rushing yards, but that wasn’t nearly enough.
However, Carolina’s concern has come after the game as they are going to be without their franchise cornerstone for quite some time.
Christian McCaffrey expected to miss four to six week
Beyond the Panthers starting in an 0-2 hole, the more significant concern lies with star running back Christian McCaffrey.
The 24-year-old suffered an ankle injury in the fourth quarter of Week 2 action against the Buccaneers after scoring his seven-yard touchdown run. Following the game, McCaffrey attempted to quiet down the concerns by stating that he was fine physically. Things took a rough turn on Monday morning with reports surfacing that he will miss four to six weeks,” according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
McCaffrey is taking the challenge head on and may look to return before that deadline in similar fashion to what Saquon Barkley did last season. It’s an internal push from him to get back on the field sooner to help get his team back on track.
Nonetheless, it’s a significant blow to the Panthers as the All-Pro running back is the anchor to their offensive game plan. Carolina has built its offense almost entirely around him. McCaffrey’s presence and performance have helped make the team highly competitive over the last few years. His absence creates a massive hole offensively and could quickly put the team well outside the picture in competing for a playoff spot.
Carolina made him the highest-paid running back in league history over the offseason with a four-year, $64 million extension. McCaffrey’s injury certainly changes much for the Panthers moving forward in the 2020 season.
Panthers’ game plan without Christian McCaffrey
The Panthers will have to move forward over the next few weeks with their star running back out of the mix.
It shifts things more heavily onto Teddy Bridgewater’s shoulders to lead the offense. The franchise showed tremendous faith in his ability this past offseason by inking him to a three-year, $63 million deal. That alone immediately made him their starter, effectively moving on from former league MVP Cam Newton.
Bridgewater has shown to be a competent starting quarterback, but he must take the next step forward if the Panthers hope to compete for the playoffs. He has some promising weapons in the passing game led by D.J. Moore, who has been one of his favorite targets. Moore has racked up 12 catches for 174 receiving yards through the first two games. He’s coming off posting eight catches for 120 receiving yards against the Buccaneers.
Meanwhile, offseason addition Robby Anderson has been a considerable factor with 15 catches for 223 receiving yards and a touchdown. The Panthers have viable weapons in the passing game for Bridgewater to depend on moving forward. It may see a more significant shift toward passing the ball while McCaffrey is on the mend.