Carolina Panthers weekly awards: Week 1 vs. NY Jets

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /

Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers RB

How great it was to see Christian McCaffrey back in his gameday uniform and making plays to help the Carolina Panthers achieve success. The running back was sorely missed over the course of 2020 – where he appeared in just three games – and the whole mindset of the organization changes when he’s on the field.

Everything just seems more at ease when McCaffrey is carrying the football or making himself available constantly in the passing game. This helped to keep things ticking over on offense and provided quarterback Sam Darnold with a comfort blanket when serious pressure came his way on multiple occasions.

One big question heading into the game was just how much the Panthers would put on McCaffrey’s shoulders. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady would be wise to take some heat off in pursuit of avoiding further injury problems, although that didn’t transpire in Week 1.

McCaffrey eventually accumulated 30 combined touches – 21 carries and nine receptions to be exact – which was something of a surprise considering the former first-round pick has been away from the gridiron for 308 days.

The Stanford product looked like an All-Pro with elusiveness and explosiveness in equal measure. Considering how things went in the second half, the Panthers don’t win this game without the presence and contribution of McCaffrey.

Finding the right balance is the next objective. But everyone associated with the Panthers couldn’t have asked for much more from their face of the franchise.