New England Patriots will have their hands full with Christian McCaffrey

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 24: Christian McCaffrey
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 24: Christian McCaffrey /

The New England Patriots will have to focus on slowing down Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey on Sunday, both on the ground and in the air.

Statistically, the worst defense in the NFL, the New England Patriots, will look to improve in week 4 against the Carolina Panthers. We all know that they need to contain the mobile Cam Newton, but Carolina’s new backfield weapon could give New England fits.

Through three weeks, the Patriots defense has been miserable. They are failing the eye test, but the stats back up our thoughts so far. They rank 32nd in yards per game allowed at 461. The Patriots 32nd against the pass, and 26th against the run. And no, it’s not that they bend and don’t break. They’re also 32nd in points allowed at 31.7 per game. They give up more points than the Cleveland Browns.

Now, in week 4, the Patriots will have to stop rookie Christian McCaffrey. Through three games in the NFL as a rookie, McCaffrey has 73 rushing yards and 173 receiving yards. He’s yet to score a touchdown, but it’s certainly coming.

McCaffrey is drawing comparisons to Darren Sproles thanks to his abilities in the passing game for the Panthers and Cam Newton. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick knows what challenges his team will face in corralling the running back.

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The Patriots have a similar player in Dion Lewis, so he’s likely the scout player acting as McCaffrey in practice. He’s similar in his threat out of the backfield, so hopefully, the Patriots defense will be very well prepared.

When he’s a runner, New England will depend on Deatrich Wise and Trey Flowers to set the edge. McCaffrey likely won’t be rushing up the middle very often, Adam Butler and Alan Branch will have to sniff it out when he does. The defensive line play will go a long way towards the Patriots having success in week 4.

Next: Patriots defense looking to make a statement

New England will likely aim to keep linebackers off of McCaffrey in passing situations, as they don’t really have a coverage backer. Harvey Langi is still raw, and Kyle Van Noy was killed on pass plays last week against the Texans. That was against D’Onta Foreman, and Christian McCaffrey is more skilled and a lot quicker this week. The Patriots will have to shut him down if they want to make a big statement and silence the Carolina offense.