4 young Panthers players who could shine at Washington

(Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports) Rodney Smith
(Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports) Rodney Smith /
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Carolina Panthers
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) Rodney Smith /

Rodney Smith – Carolina Panthers RB

The likelihood of Christian McCaffrey making a surprise appearance for the Carolina Panthers in Week 16 is virtually zero. The All-Pro running back is officially listed as doubtful for the clash at Washington, but head coach Matt Rhule didn’t hold out much hope regarding the player’s status at a time when shutting him down for the season now seems like the best option.

Primary backup Mike Davis will command the lion’s share of the touches in McCaffrey’s absence. However, expect Rodney Smith to also see plenty of the field as he looks to stake a claim for a longer stay with the organization in 2021 and beyond.

Smith has turned in a couple of encouraging displays on limited touches over the last two weeks. Carolina might be on the lookout for a No. 2 option in free agency if Davis receives a better offer elsewhere and the answer might already be on the roster if the former Minnesota star shows enough between now and the end of the campaign.

There is little doubt that Smith has a long way to go.

But the early signs are extremely encouraging.

Gaining yards on the ground against Washington’s exceptional defensive front is not going to be easy and it will be up to offensive coordinator Joe Brady to put Smith and Davis in the best possible positions to succeed.