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An Insider’s Look At The Carolina Panthers

Q: Christian McCaffrey leads the team in rushing and receptions and is second in receiving yards. Just how important has he become to the Carolina offense, and what trait(s) make him so dangerous?

Strickland: How important? Well, he’s playing about 96 percent of the snaps, far and away the greatest usage rate among running backs in the league. Carolina felt comfortable enough with McCaffrey’s role to recently part ways with C.J. Anderson, a 1,000-yard rusher for the Broncos in 2017. How dangerous? He’s as good a route runner as many receivers in the league, ranking 16th in receptions regardless of position. He also ranks 10th in rushing yards, proving in his second season that he’s strong enough to be an effective inside runner. McCaffrey isn’t a game-breaker every single week, but he’s the definition of a consistent performer.

Q: The Panthers have been solid against the run this year, giving up 98.5 yards per game on the ground, but face an NFL-leading Seahawks rushing attack that has eclipsed 150 yards in seven straight games. How critical will run defense be for Carolina, and how well-equipped are they to slow down the running game?

Strickland: Washington begins each week of game-planning by harping on the importance of stopping the run, be it against a pass-happy opponent or one carrying the ball like the Seahawks are. The funny thing is that statistically the Panthers possess the eighth-stingiest run defense in the league, yet there’s a feeling that the group is getting gashed. The numbers posted by the Panthers are heavily populated a combination of stops at or behind the line of scrimmage and chunk plays (Kerryon Johnson for the Lions last week lost yardage four times but gained 11 or more four times). That’s a dangerous game to play against a Seahawks unit that is rolling right now.

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