NFL defenses will likely spend a lot of the 2017 season trying to figure out how to stop a Carolina Panthers offense that boasts two near-unique offensive weapons in Cam Newton and first-round running back Christian McCaffrey.
However, the first person to get a shot at defending McCaffrey will be Panthers star linebacker Luke Kuechly, who’ll be matched up one-on-one with the young runner once on-field drills begin later in the offseason.
“He’s going to be a challenge,” Kuechly said, according to Max Henson of the Panthers’ official site. “Hopefully they just let him run one simple route so I know what’s coming.”
McCaffrey’s skills as a receiver were lauded throughout the draft process. With fellow running back Jonathan Stewart still set for a significant role, and Newton likely to be a big part of the ground game, the rookie’s biggest impact could come as a pass catcher.
“I sat down and watched some highlights, and yeah, he’s pretty doggone good,” Kuechly said. “He’s quick, he can run away from people, he can do a lot of different things.
“You have to identify where he is. The formation will somewhat dictate what he can do. He’ll be one of those guys – and I don’t want to put him in a box or anything – but kind of like Darren Sproles. Wherever he is, you better figure it out. Anywhere he gets the ball, he can score. I think Christian can bring that to us.”
Kuechly is arguably the NFL’s best coverage linebacker, so if he struggles to defend McCaffrey in training camp, it’s a bad sign for the rest of the league and a great one for the Panthers.
Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.