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Will Christian McCaffrey follow LeSean McCoy by breaking out as a rusher in Year 2?

There are a lot of similarities between the two dual-threat backs, which could bode well for Christian McCaffrey as a runner.

Carolina Panthers v New York Jets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

There are several similarities between Christian McCaffrey and the Buffalo Bills dual-threat running back LeSean McCoy.

They have similar builds with McCaffrey listed at 5-foot-11, 205-pounds and McCoy at 5-foot-11, 210-pounds. At the NFL combine McCaffrey posted a 4.48 40-yard dash and McCoy a 4.50. They are both excellent route runners and receivers out of the backfield. Their respective last names both start with “Mc”, which ultimately means nothing, but why not point that out?

Panthers fans should hope the similarities don’t end there.

Rookie rushers

Both McCaffrey and McCoy were used rather sparingly as rushers during their rookie seasons and had limited success gaining yards. As a rookie in 2017 CMC registered 117 rushes for 435 yards, or an uninspiring 3.7 yards per attempt (YPA). McCoy put up a similarly “meh” 2009 rookie season with 155 carries for 637 yards, or 4.1 YPA, with the Philadelphia Eagles.

While neither player lit the world on fire as a runner during their first NFL seasons, LeSean McCoy showed just how much difference a year can make. In his 2010 sophomore season, McCoy registered 207 carries for 1,080 yards, or 5.2 YPA. His yards per attempt mushroomed from 4.1 as a rookie to 5.2 in his second season. After his marginal rookie season, McCoy maintained a 4.8 YPA average over the next seven years (2010-2016) with nearly 1,200 rushing yards per season before having a less efficient 2017.

Panthers fans can only hope for such a Year 2 jump from Christian McCaffrey.

The case for a Year 2 CMC leap

McCaffrey’s effectiveness as a rusher last year can be clearly divided between the first and second halves of the season. In the Panthers first eight games he had 49 carries for just 117 yards, or 2.4 YPA. But over Carolina’s final eight games CMC registered 68 carries for 318 yards, or 4.7 YPA, nearly doubling his rushing yards per attempt. Here are his YPA in each of his 16 games last year along with the trend line showing his progress throughout the season:

Mick Smiley, Cat Scratch Reader

The improvement was probably a combination of better play calling (getting CMC in space more than smashing him up the gut), McCaffrey maturing as a runner, the gelling of the offensive line, and the offense improving overall as Cam Newton slowly healed from a shoulder injury.

Heading into 2018, a more mature CMC will have a new offensive coordinator in Norv Turner who knows how to effectively utilize dual-threat running backs. Turner was the head coach of the San Diego Chargers from 2007-2012 where he smartly deployed LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles, and Mike Tolbert. (Side note: Tolbert put up 490 rushing yards, 433 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns under Turner in 2011, if you can believe that. He wasn’t always the human bowling ball we knew and loved in Carolina.)

Turner’s offensive philosophy and play calling should be faster and more open than Mike Shula’s previous approach, and this should fit CMC’s skillset like a glove. Ron Rivera indicated McCaffrey could see closer to 200 carries in 2018, per ESPN, so there are indications his workload could increase as well. All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell is gone, but center Ryan Kalil should be healthy (finger crossed) and tackle Matt Kalil is no longer new to the Panthers system.

Christian McCaffrey’s Year 2 could prove to be a breakout season similar to LeSean McCoy’s 2010 campaign with somewhere close to a 5.0 YPA average and 1,000-plus rushing yards, depending on the number of carries he gets. Remember, McCaffrey averaged 4.7 YPA over the last eight games of his rookie season, so eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing in 2018 isn’t a pipe dream.

And if McCaffrey follows McCoy’s career trajectory, 2018 could be just the first of many 1,000-plus yard seasons to come.


How many rushing yards do you predict from Christian McCaffrey in 2018 (assuming 16 games)?

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