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Carolina Panthers rookies get NFL baptism by fire
McCaffrey, Samuel get chance to step up
Published Sunday, September 24, 2017 5:14 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

Carolina Panthers rookie Christian McCaffrey caught nine passes for 101 yards in the Panthers' 34-13 loss Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

Rookies have a chance to make an impact in a deteriorating Carolina Panthers offense.

In Carolina’s 34-13 loss to NFC South rival New Orleans (1-2), dual threat running backs/receivers Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel (their first and second round draft picks) provided most of the offensive threat.


#Panthers rookie Curtis Samuel on his progress thus far. #thecharlottepost

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“I thought Curtis was explosive-dynamic,” coach Ron Rivera said. “We saw what happens when he gets the ball in his hands and we give him an opportunity. That was kind of exciting. I can say the same thing about Christian. Christian looked dynamic when he had the ball in his hands as well. There are some things we have to look at, and we look at ways to get the ball in the playmakers’ hands.”

Said Samuel: “I wouldn’t say I’m pleased with the way I’m playing thus far, because I feel like I can do more. I’m taking steps to get to where I need to be. That’s the good thing about it. Just take it week by week, and become the best player I can be out there to help these guys.”

Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin left the game just before halftime following a tackle that caused an issue with his left knee, which was reconstructed with ACL surgery in 2015. Tight end Greg Olsen broke his right foot last week. As injuries continue to creep up, the rookie duo needs to do more.

“We just have to play our role, and just be smart out there, and make plays,” Samuel said.

Said Rivera: “They’re playing hard. They’re learning, and they’re trying to fit into what we do. We’re trying to learn to use them as weapons.”

Against the Saints, McCarffrey had four carries for 16 yards and nine receptions for 101 yards. Samuel had one explosive carry for 31 yards, and two receptions for five yards. Despite his speed, Samuel insists his game goes far beyond that.

“Speed? I don’t know if that’s the main thing,” he said. “I’ve got a lot more—I’ve got some wiggle.”

Carolina (2-1) did not show up against their first NFC South opponent, and it cost them their first loss of the season.

“I don’t think anybody came here to play harder than we did,” Rivera said. “We played hard. We just didn’t play smart. We didn’t play well enough to win. That’s why we got beat. We played sideways. We didn’t play downhill. We didn’t play into our creases. We didn’t control our gaps.”

Said McCaffrey: “We’ve got to keep pushing. We’ve got to keep our head up, it’s one game. A lot of people will probably be down on us, and that’s fine with us, because we’re a brotherhood. What matters is what is in this locker room. We’re going to do everything we can to get it fixed.”



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