The Panthers brought a week one win back to the Queen City after defeating the 49ers 23-3. There were a lot of questions about this Carolina team heading into the season. How would Cam Newton look after off-season shoulder surgery. Is Christian McCaffrey the real deal? Will the defense return back to their 2015 form? Although many questions still remain, there were a few things that were very clear after week 1.
The Panthers are betting the house on Christian McCaffrey
There was no player talked more about this preseason than Carolina’s first round draft pick Christian McCaffrey. And while the coaching staff and players heaped tons of praise on the rookie running back out of Stanford, I wanted to wait until the regular season started to make my first assessment. Unfortunately, I learned more about McCaffrey’s role in the offense on Sunday than his actual talent within it.
There was a report last week by ESPN’s Dianna Russini that Christian had his own playbook.
Carolina Panthers sources tell me that Christian McCaffrey has his own separate playbook, a large part of this offense devoted to him.
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) September 5, 2017
Many people wrote it off because, honestly, how much sense would that make? But after watching McCaffrey get nearly twice as many targets as Greg Olsen and as many targets as Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess combined, not including his rushing attempts, I’m convinced that the Panthers, at least for now, are betting the house on Christian.
The question now becomes if this is a good thing. While McCaffrey got more touches offensively than anyone else, his production was less than stellar. He rushed for just 47 yards on 13 attempts. (Note: 20 of those yards came during garbage time late in the 4th quarter when the Panthers were nursing a 20 point lead)
Did the coaches want to put the ball in McCaffrey’s hands this much in order to get him comfortable? Do they think it would help his confidence going forward? Or have they really bet the house on him offensively, because if so, they may find themselves in trouble if his production doesn’t improve.
Cam Newton Is Rusty
After recuperating from offseason shoulder surgery, Cam Newton played only one offensive series during the preseason and the Panthers quarterback was noticeably rusty during Sunday’s game. During the 2nd quarter with an opportunity to go up 14-0, Newton missed a wide open Ed Dickson.
— 49ersHive (@49ersHive) September 11, 2017
Shortly, after this Cam overthrew Kelvin Benjamin on a play that would’ve resulted in a first down. But fans shouldn’t worry about if this will persist. The most important thing is that Newton is healthy. Everyone is knocking off a little rust the first game, I expect we’ll see Newton hitting those throws next week at home against the Buffalo Bills.
Panthers Defense Could Be One of the League’s Best
There’s an old adage that defense wins championships and if the Panthers are going to keep up in a tough NFC South, their defense is going to have to be one of the league’s best. Sunday, they showed promise holding the 49ers to only 51 yards and sacking Hoyer 4 times. And despite a 22 yard reception by Pierre Garcon, the Panthers secondary (which has been a point of concern for many) didn’t give up any plays longer than 14 yards. This is good news for a team that has always prided itself on having a strong defense.