4 biggest challenges awaiting the Carolina Panthers in 2021

Dean Jones
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /
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Carolina Panthers
(Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /

Keeping Christian McCaffrey on the field

Although Sam Darnold occupies the most important position on the field for the Carolina Panthers, much of their fortunes on offense will also depend on keeping Christian McCaffrey fit and firing on all cylinders.

The running back had not missed a game before the 2020 season This came to an abrupt halt when McCaffrey missed 13 contests due to ankle, shoulder, and quad problems, which obviously has to change in 2021 if the Panthers want to make strides in the second year of Matt Rhule’s reign.

Carolina lost a jaw-dropping eight games by one score last season.

Had McCaffrey been available, then it’s hard to envisage this scenario playing out the way it did.

Taking some pressure off their franchise player is of critical importance. The Panthers lost Mike Davis to the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, but the addition of fourth-round pick Chuba Hubbard comes with a tremendous amount of intrigue.

Much will depend on how Hubbard adjusts. Carolina also has Rodney Smith, Trenton Cannon, and Reggie Bonnafon fighting for places on the depth chart and it would be a big surprise if someone didn’t generate more carries given what transpired with McCaffrey last time out.

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Having a capable backup could allow the Panthers to get a little more creative in the way they use McCaffrey, which has obvious benefits. But something has to give if the organization wants to get some bang for their buck over the duration of his bumper deal.