Halfway through 2021, the NFL has seen a whirlwind of changes. Inching closer to the start of the season, many rosters are looking very different from the ones fielded last year. OTA’s and camps are in full swing. Players taking part and leading these practices is the first step to a successful season. Competing individually at a high level all season can elevate a player to become a face of a franchise. Representing a team starts with the effort on the field and in workouts, but also extends to off-field affairs and demeanor. Here we highlight three faces of the 2021 Carolina Panthers.
2021 Carolina Panthers: Faces of the Team
Speed and versatility seem to be a theme in Matt Rhule’s offensive plan. The poster child for this strategy is Christian McCaffery. A clear-cut option for this list, McCaffery has been nothing short of stellar when healthy. Drafted in 2017, McCaffery immediately made an impact for his new club. His 435 yards and two touchdowns on the ground seem insignificant, however, he caught 80 passes en-route to 651 yards and five touchdowns. In fact, in his first three seasons, McCaffery was targeted at least 100 times each season. An injury in 2020 saw McCaffery sidelined for all but three contests. After a year of missing their MVP, Carolina looks to right their record with a healthy McCaffery in the lineup.
This dual-threat production has provided a spark for Carolina’s offense, but has also brought forth a culture. NFL coaches utilize backs as receivers now more than ever. While Roger Craig may have pioneered the dual-threat back in the 1980’s, McCaffery is certainly etching his name in both Panthers and NFL lore. A four-year, $64 million contract is evidence that the Panthers are invested in McCaffery and scheming around his talents. If Carolina is to return to their 2015 success, they’ll need a heavy dose of the All-Pro running back.
Another versatile offensive weapon, D.J Moore has had an interesting NFL career so far. Overlooked as a true WR1, Moore has come up big when it counts. During his rookie season, his first professional reception was a 57 yard touchdown. His first year ended with 55 receptions, 788 yards and two touchdowns. An increase in targets only resulted in continued success for Moore. Eclipsing 1,000 yards in the next two seasons, the former Maryland wideout showed why he deserved his first round tag. Even while sharing targets with McCaffery, Moore managed to have his way looked at least 115 times in both seasons.
Matt Rhule is a defense-first coach, but isn’t to be slept on offensively either. Flexibility is commonplace in Rhule’s scheme and perhaps no one has succeeded more in this environment than Moore. His quiet but consistent play continues into 2021, as the Panthers have picked up the fifth-year option on his contract. Investment in a high quality player like Moore shows he is surely one of the faces of the Carolina Panthers.
Ready for a sophomore season with the Panthers, Jeremy Chinn enters his second year after making noise in 2020. Carolina’s budding defensive group has many young talents, but Chinn entered his role and produced immediately. Logging 116 tackles, a sack and an interception, Chinn showed sideline-to-sideline vision and pursuit. The second-round selection also forced two fumbles, returning both for touchdowns. This awareness and production is reminiscent of the days when Luke Kuechly was in charge. With potential and talent surrounding him, look for Chinn to emerge as one of the true faces of the Carolina Panthers defense in 2021.
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