Cam Newton might get all the headlines for the Panthers, but look for Christian McCaffrey to be the key to Carolina’s offense against the Redskins.
There’s been a ton of talk about how Norv Turner has worked to help Cam Newton this season. While that’s true, he isn’t the only Panther who’s benefitted from the new offensive coordinator. Christian McCaffrey is the player most impacted by Turner’s new playbook.
Expect that reality to be on full display Sunday against the Redskins. The former Stanford Cardinal star won’t just be the player counted on to tote the rock against Washington’s physical front. He’ll also be the guy counted on to stretch their secondary. That’s what makes McCaffrey such a unique weapon for the Panthers.
To put it bluntly, Washington’s defense doesn’t have anyone who can match up with him one on one. Expect to see DJ Swearinger matched up on him in coverage quite a bit, but that’s a battle the Panthers will look to exploit. McCaffrey simply has too much speed for anyone on the Redskins defense to handle.
The wrinkle for the Panthers offense in this game is that they will likely try to run the ball more than normal. In particular, Turner and company will work the edges against Washington. Expect to see a lot of stretch plays that give McCaffrey a chance to get the edge against the Redskins’ linebacking corps. They’ll mix in a healthy dose of inside running, but the big plays are going to come on the edge.
The Redskins’ defensive challenge will only be increased if Greg Olsen is able to make his return. If he’s back in the mix it will give Washington’s safeties another weapon to worry about. They aren’t capable of keeping track of McCaffrey even without a dangerous tight end to consider. Adding Olsen to the mix would simply overload Washington’s scheme.
The only real chance Washington has to win this game is to make this game a track meet. Alex Smith has enough ability to make some plays against this inconsistent Panthers defense, but his team just doesn’t have the firepower to match the Carolina offense score for score. Look for McCaffrey to enjoy a massive afternoon and for the Panthers to put another NFC East team to the sword.