Carolina Panthers rookie camp began on Friday and infused the practice fields outside of Bank of America Stadium with new faces and fresh legs. This is the time of year that hopes are high and optimism can almost be seen, floating like a fog just above the green turf. This year is perhaps the most exciting since a quarterback named Cam Newton was drafted.
Of course, taking on of the most exciting players in college football will have that effect. Christian McCaffrey was among the first rookies to take the field on Friday afternoon. Sporting a Nike headband that I am sure Cam Newton would approve of, McCaffrey has his own sense of style.
Christian McCaffrey spent the afternoon practice mainly as a running back, although did split time as a receiver in the morning. I have watched rookie camp for the past decade, so I try to judge any performances based on past rookie camp performances. Comparing the rookies to proven veterans would probably not be fair. I can tell you that McCaffrey has feet as nimble as rookie Deangelo Williams, if not more so. McCaffrey doesn’t run and cut to get where he needs to be. It is more like he glides, his feet rarely touching the ground.
A major piece of practice came in the form of one on one drills. McCaffrey was often lined up against linebackers who were charged with covering the running back. This is never a fair drill for the linebackers, as few could cover a fast running back for any real amount of time. Covering McCaffrey seemed to be no exception. Pictured below, Gastonia’s own Zeek Bigger keeps up with McCaffrey, but as soon as the jets are turned on it is all over.
This is not to say Christian McCaffrey’s day was perfect. As with any rookie, there is always room for improvement. During the aforementioned one on one drills, McCaffrey did drop a pass. While the ball was slightly behind him, he was able to get two hands on it. That has to be a catch at the professional level. The good news is day one of rookie camp is just a starting point. McCaffrey doesn’t strike me as the type of player happy with a drop here or there.
Overall, it was easy to see why McCaffrey was the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft. He showed flashes of all the skills necessary to develop into a capable NFL running back.