Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey must set the tone vs. NY Jets

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

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey must set the tone for his team as they look for a Week 1 win against the New York Jets.

All eyes will be on Christian McCaffrey as he makes his long-awaited return to competitive action for the Carolina Panthers this weekend. The running back featured in just three games in 2020 due to various injury problems, so he’s obviously raring to go in pursuit of leading Matt Rhule’s men to bigger and better things this season.

McCaffrey has been used sparingly during the offseason program by the Panthers. Understandable when one considers the repercussions that could come with any further complications on the health front.

Although the Panthers are loaded with dynamic weapons, McCaffrey will remain the focal point and he needs to set the right tone from the outset against a New York Jets defense that should be much-improved in 2021.

The appointment of Robert Saleh as head coach is a big reason why more is expected. He is a hugely respected figure that worked wonders with the San Francisco 49ers, with the Jets also boasting some quality players following a busy period of recruitment.

They’ll be aware of the threat McCaffrey can pose. It’s something he’s displayed plenty during his four years in the league so far.

Christian McCaffrey remains the focal point on offense for the Carolina Panthers.

Taking some of the load off the former Stanford standout would be advantageous. Especially considering the Panthers and others across the league are about to embark on a new 17-game schedule that is relatively unknown for all involved.

Keeping McCaffrey fit and firing on all cylinders is arguably the biggest component behind Carolina’s 2021 season. Although how Sam Darnold gets on under center is also pivotal.

The Jets actually had a decent run defense in 2020, led by formidable defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. They gave up an average of 112 yards per game on the ground, which was ranked No. 12 across the league.

McCaffrey has the chance to get the Panthers off to a strong start. But much will also depend on how the offensive line performs in front of the All-Pro.

Carolina’s young roster now has more experience and those in power did a nice job of acquiring some seasoned pros to keep them trending in the right direction. Having the best-dual threat back in the league also helps, so if McCaffrey can lead from the front and put up some quality numbers, then an opening day victory won’t be far behind.

This is a good time to play the Jets, in all honesty.

They are going to get better as the campaign progresses. Providing Carolina is right at it from the start, catching them relatively cold is a realistic outcome.

The Panthers have some winnable early games on the schedule before things get tougher. If McCaffrey can stay healthy for the duration, then a winning record in 2021 is well within the team’s capabilities.

McCaffrey has heard all the chatter about others now ahead of him in the running back standings. This only adds more fuel to his first in the coming months.

4 realistic goals for Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey in 2021. light. Related Story

And those who’ve forgotten just what he can do will soon remember.