How much pressure is on Christian McCaffrey heading into camp?

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /

How much pressure is on Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey heading into a crucial training camp in 2021?

Seeing Christian McCaffrey on the field and injury-free will undoubtedly be a sight for sore eyes at training camp and during the 2021 season. The running back endured a frustrating campaign last time around and everyone associated with the Carolina Panthers is hoping this was just a bump in the road rather than something that’s going to become an ongoing concern.

McCaffrey has certainly looked like a man on a mission this offseason. He is in supreme physical shape and has been working exceptionally hard to ensure that he can make far more of an impact in the second year of Matt Rhule’s reign as head coach.

Missing so much time comes with its own set of pressure.

There were some that questioned Carolina’s decision to give McCaffrey a four-year, $64 million deal with a $21 million signing bonus and $38 million guaranteed last year. This was swiftly followed by speculation linking him as a possible bargaining chip to land quarterback Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans.

Obviously, this didn’t go unnoticed by McCaffrey. People seem to have brushed under the radar his ability, but there is absolutely no disputing the fact he’s the best dual-threat back in the league when firing on all cylinders.

McCaffrey seems to be a player who thrives under the spotlight. Playing well under pressure seems to come naturally to the former first-round pick, who has taken the NFL by storm since arriving four years ago out of Stanford.

Handling pressure is nothing new for Christian McCaffrey.

Pressure is nothing new to McCaffrey. He’s had a big bullseye on his back for a long time and still put up exceptional numbers, including becoming the third player in NFL history to go over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season.

Although the microscope will be on McCaffrey in the coming weeks, the Panthers also need to do more to help their best offensive weapon. Putting too much on his shoulders just isn’t the smart way to go anymore, especially when one considers the number of game-changing weapons they’ve accumulated over the last two years.

One only has to look at last season to see what problems can emerge.

Don’t expect to see too much of McCaffrey in preseason games. The odd carry at the start of the first two contests is probably all he’ll realistically get.

However, the player needs to hit the ground running when business picks up Week 1 against the New York Jets, which could set the tone for the whole season where Carolina is concerned.

The Panthers are counting on it.

McCaffrey is an elite talent that the Panthers are fortunate to have. What’s important now is for offensive coordinator Joe Brady to find the right balance between getting the most out of his only All-Pro and keeping him fresh in the face of substantial attention coming his way on almost every down.

It’s a fine line, obviously.

But Brady and Carolina have now had a considerable period of time to come up with a solution.

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It’s hard to envisage a situation where McCaffrey goes through the same frustrations next season. And training camp will be the first real indicator of just what the team might do to preserve the face of the franchise.