Meet Christian McCaffrey, ‘the best weapon in football’ set to light up NFL London
The Carolina Panthers star looks to continue his incredible season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday
Christian McCaffrey catapulted himself into the end zone last weekend, placing himself firmly into the MVP conversation. It was a play that epitomised the Carolina Panthers running back’s astonishing tear this season: a searing pace that sees him on track for 2,771 scrimmage yards – 262 more than Chris Johnson’s NFL record from 2009.
In a blistering four seconds, McCaffrey sliced the Jaguars defence apart, fending off opponents with a stiff arm before absorbing Tre Herndon’s hit on an audacious route into the end zone for one of his three touchdowns.
The Panthers would prevail, 34-27, and therefore roll into London with a 3-2 record, three weeks removed from star quarterback Cam Newton succumbing to an injury which threatened to derail their season.
“He’s playing outside the realm of reality right now,” former Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams beams ahead of Sunday’s clash with Tampa Bay.
Williams is amazed by McCaffrey’s ability to withstand the brutality of the league and a workload that has seen him average 27.2 touches per game. Williams recalls games in his decade-long career when he was handed 25 or more touches. “You’re so sore, it feels like you have suffered a bad car crash,” Williams adds. “He’ll be needing those ice baths and the coaches are wise not to run him every down in practice, he needs a light work week to perform on Sunday to ease the burden on (back-up quarterback) Kyle Allen.”
Williams is adamant the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium crowd will be witnessing the best dual-threat running back in the league. McCaffrey has revelled throughout the infancy of the NFL’s offensive revolution. It has forced defences to evolve, implementing an additional corner back or cover safety with a linebacker removed, which has seen the running game become more fluid.
“He runs his routes like a slot-receiver,” Williams claims. “He runs his routes like a wide receiver, he’d be just as efficient in the slot as he is in the backfield. It’s tough for traditional running backs like myself to pick that up right now, Christian learned that since high school.”
McCaffrey will look to emulate the legendary Adrian Peterson as a back to win the league’s prestigious MVP award, with the former Viking leaving his mark in London when he ran riot in a thrilling 34-27 win against the Steelers in 2013, justifying his status as the reigning MVP.
But with the Panthers a game behind the formidable Saints (4-1) in the NFC South, McCaffrey cannot allow his MVP contention to blur the ultimate goal of reaching the play-offs. His remarkable effort has enabled that to become a possibility despite Newton’s absence.
“To win the MVP, he would have to rush for over 1,000 yards (currently: 587 yards), catch for over 1,000 yards (currently: 279 yards), set the 2,000 mark and guide his team to the play-offs,” Williams maintains, while not pretending Carolina’s smaller market may limit the hype surrounding the premature stages of his campaign to beat out Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson.
And with such an array of skills ready to be showcased at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson aptly pinpoints why McCaffrey is so devastating – it’s not just what he is capable of, it’s more what isn’t he capable of.
“He’s just so special, Mr Versatility, that’s what I call him,” the former MVP says. “He played over 95 per cent of plays last year because you can do so many things with him, he’s so dangerous.
“For me, he’s just the best weapon in football right now.”