How much time should Christian McCaffrey get in preseason Week 2?

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

How much time should the Carolina Panthers put Christian McCaffrey on the field during their preseason Week 2 game against the Baltimore Ravens?

It appears as if the Carolina Panthers will be utilizing their starters for some time against the Baltimore Ravens unless head coach Matt Rhule has a late change of heart. This comes after they sat out last Sunday’s opening pre-season fixture at the Indianapolis Colts as teams across the league completely shift their approach with just three games throughout the preparation period.

There is a great deal of excitement about seeing quarterback Sam Darnold on the field for the first time following his trade from the New York Jets. However, the Panthers also have the option of giving Christian McCaffrey some reps to further ready the running back for the new season.

McCaffrey hasn’t been seen since Week 9 of the 2020 season, where he went off late on during a narrow loss at the Kansas City Chiefs. Ankle, shoulder, and quad problems restricted the All-Pro to just three games and this is something that really hurt Carolina in their first year under Rhule.

The All-Pro has certainly looked the part both during the early offseason program and training camp. McCaffrey still has an elite burst and seems ready to hit the ground running when competitive action begins, which will be like a new signing for the Panthers after the former first-round pick missed so many games last time around.

Even though McCaffrey will be chomping at the bit to get back involved, Carolina should err on the side of caution when it comes to giving their prized possession any preseason reps.

Having McCaffrey on the field with Darnold would be beneficial. But it’s not the end of the world if it’s fourth-rounder Chuba Hubbard or someone else alongside the signal-caller.

The Carolina Panthers shouldn’t play Christian McCaffrey against the Ravens.

Everyone knows what McCaffrey is capable of.

Risking injury in a meaningless warmup game just isn’t the smart way to go.

This will be disappointing for McCaffrey and those fans attending the game at Bank of America Stadium. But the back has been getting a ton of reps throughout camp and during joint practices with the Colts and Ravens over the last fortnight.

There are benefits to throwing a carry or two McCaffrey’s way. However, the player always keeps himself in a prime physical condition, so getting him back up to speed is the least of the Panthers’ worries.

It’s also worth remembering that Carolina is about to embark on a 17-game season. If things transpire as expected, there is a real chance the organization will have something to play for right until the final contest.

Therefore, it’s imperative that McCaffrey is protected at all costs.

He remains the focal point despite other dynamic playmakers on offense. So jeopardizing this is a risk simply not worth taking.

McCaffrey is entering his fifth NFL campaign and knows exactly what’s expected. The Panthers would be wise to take some pressure off their star player moving forward, with the toll of accumulating 1,002 combined touches from 51 career games finally catching up with him in 2020.

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Nobody will be looking forward to getting back out there more than McCaffrey himself. But if the Panthers had any sense, they’d wait until Week 1.