4 most important Panthers players against the Raiders

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Christian McCaffrey
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Christian McCaffrey /
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Carolina Panthers
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Christian McCaffrey /

Christian McCaffrey – RB

Let’s start with the most obvious of this group. Christian McCaffrey is going to be an indispensable member of the Carolina Panthers for as long as he is still performing at a high level. And he is the new face of the franchise following the high-profile departure of quarterback Cam Newton.

McCaffrey is coming off a campaign where he secured 1,000-yards rushing and receiving in the same year. He is one of only three running backs to have achieved this feat in NFL history and was enough for the former first-round pick to get a four-year, $64 million extension with a $21 million signing bonus and $38 million guaranteed this offseason.

The Stanford product needs to set the tone from the moment he steps onto the field. McCaffrey will command the prime attention of every defense he comes up against. But he has proven more than capable of providing elite protection in the past in this particular scenario.

The All-Pro faces a tough test in Week 1 against the Raiders, who were the NFL’s sixth-best team against the run in 2019. They gave up an average of 98.1 yards-per-game on the ground thanks to a defensive front that is anchored by the formidable defensive tackle tandem of Johnathan Hankins and Maliek Collins.

McCaffrey will need to work hard for any yards between the tackles. But offensive coordinator is sure to come up with a plan that can allow him to make a difference against an exciting young defense.