Carolina Panthers duo named as NFL’s most versatile players in 2021
Two members of the Carolina Panthers were recently named as the NFL’s most versatile players by a leading analyst.
Versatility is clearly very important to Matt Rhule. The Carolina Panthers have put this trait high on their list of priorities when choosing incoming recruits from free agency or the NFL Draft since the head coach took charge. Something that’s left them with an athletic young roster capable of great things moving forward.
This gives the Panthers more options, at the very least. Putting it all together when it matters most is going to be the next stage for this group, who should benefit from last season’s experience even though it only ended with a 5-11 record for the second straight year.
Keeping an opponent guessing is half the battle in today’s NFL. With modern technology the way it is, film study has more tells than ever. So having players that can do different things is a solid foundation from which to build a contender.
Gill Brandt, who is a senior analyst at NFL.com, recently ranked the 11 most versatile players operating in the league heading into the 2021 season. And right at the top of the list were two Panthers players who’ll be vital to the team’s chances long-term.
Carolina Panthers players were No. 1 and No. 2 on Gill Brandt’s versatile list.
Coming in at No. 1 was Jeremy Chinn, who starred as an outside linebacker during his rookie campaign and is now moving back to his preferred position of safety.
Seeing the whole field and giving Chinn freedom to roam could make a massive difference to Carolina’s defense, which made some eye-catching improvements over the second half of the campaign under Phil Snow.
Brandt is banking on the additions of Hasson Reddick and Denzel Perryman from the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers respectively taking Chinn to even greater heights in 2021. But this represents some deserved recognition for the player despite just having one full season under his belt.
"“Every once in a while, a player with elite pro potential will slip through the cracks, and it appears this is what happened with Chinn, a second-round pick out of Southern Illinois. Chinn is a back-seven defender who can match up against basically anyone, whether he’s functioning as a linebacker, safety or slot defender. The offseason additions should give defensive coordinator Phil Snow even more options when it comes to taking advantage of Chinn’s skill set.”"
Coming in just behind Chinn on the list was Christian McCaffrey at No. 2. The running back is widely regarded as the league’s best dual-threat player at the position and even though he missed 13 games in 2020 due to injury, a bounce-back campaign of the highest order is likely providing there are no further complications on the health front.
Brandt wrote what about the Panthers potentially decreasing McCaffrey’s workload next season, which is something we’ve preached at length. However, there is nothing to suggest the All-Pro cannot continue to be a leading contributor for an offense that has a wealth of weapons for new quarterback Sam Darnold to call upon.
"“McCaffrey’s spot could be justified by his 2019 season alone, considering he became one of just three players in NFL history to top 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. It would not be surprising if McCaffrey’s workload were to shrink a bit, but it’s tough to conceive of an offensive player who can come close to achieving his status as a do-everything monster.”"
A little too much gets made of preseason ranking such as this. But it’s hard to deny just how important Chinn and McCaffrey are to the Panthers.
Both provide inspiration on different sides of the ball, which rubs off on their teammates in a positive manner. Much more is obviously needed when building a Super Bowl contender, but it might just see some serious progression come Carolina’s way if other prominent roster members stand up and are counted in 2021.
Although there are some obvious concerns, fans can be excited about the Panthers’ chances next season. And make no mistake, Chinn and McCaffrey will be at the heart of everything good coming their way.