Carolina’s multi-purpose rookie running back/wide receiver Christian McCaffrey, who was taken eighth overall in the NFL draft, will be the X-factor on Sunday when the Falcons face the Panthers at 1 p.m. in Charlotte.
The Panthers like to move him around. He’s caught 49 passes for 376 yards and two touchdowns. He’s also rushed 49 times for 117 yards (2.4 per carry) and no touchdowns.
Falcons rookie defensive end Takk McKinley, who played at UCLA, faced McCaffrey, who played at Stanford, twice in college.
“In my junior year, he put up about 300-plus total-purpose yards,” McKinley said. “He’s a real good back. He waits for the holes to open up, and he explodes through them.
“My senior year, we held him to something like a 100 yards. They still ended up winning the game.”
The Falcons had trouble stopping the run during their three-game losing streak that ended Sunday with the team’s victory against the New York Jets.
“For us, as a defensive line we have to stay disciplined, stay in our gaps and make sure that we stop the run like we did last week,” McKinley said.
Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel is concerned about McCaffrey.
“He is very dynamic,” Manuel said. “He can line up at wide receiver. He can line up in the backfield. He can punt return. ... He’s a guy that’s very electric when he gets the ball in his hands.”
Falcons coach Dan Quinn compared McCaffrey’s elusiveness with Devonta Freeman.
“Much like where (Devonta) Freeman has that change of direction, that is the same thing that I’ve been most impressed with (about) him,” Quinn said. “Not only the hands, but also his ability to change direction and break guys off in man-to-man.”
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