According to Joe Person, Carolina Panthers Head Coach Matt Rhule plans to hold superstar running back Christian McCaffrey out of the preseason. It’s a wise decision given McCaffrey’s troublesome injury history of late. The former Stanford standout has appeared in just 10 of a possible 33 NFL regular-season contests over the previous two seasons while struggling with various ankle, shoulder, and hamstring ailments. McCaffrey is a crucial cog of Carolina’s offense, and managing his reps throughout the summer makes total sense as he prepares for the marathon of a 17-game season.
Carolina’s decision raises questions around the league, as several franchises should consider following suit. Risking the health of a veteran superstar throughout the preseason is a futile exercise. We’ve identified three other NFL players who should join McCaffrey on the sidelines during preseason action.
DERRICK HENRY, RB, TENNESSEE TITANS
Derrick Henry suffered a regular-season ending Jones fracture in a Week 8 victory over the Indianapolis Colts last season. Tennessee’s bellcow returned in time for their divisional round postseason defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals. Prior to suffering his injury, Henry was leading the league in carries, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns, and was on pace to break the NFL’s all-time rushing record while averaging a league-best 117.1 yards per contest.
Henry didn’t feature in the preseason last year despite being healthy, so there’s little reason to believe Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel would risk Henry’s regular-season availability throughout this year’s three exhibition contests. Henry is yet again expected to serve as the featured star in a Titans offense that lost A.J. Brown this offseason.
Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing is breaking in a new-look passing offense that features Robert Woods, Treylon Burks, and Austin Hooper. Expect Henry to do the heavy lifting while Tennessee’s new pass-catchers acclimate to the offense. Sitting Henry would also allow the Titans to get an extended look at rookie ball-carrier Hassan Haskins. There’s no reason for Henry to suit up for the preseason.
JOE BURROW, QB, CINCINNATI BENGALS
The reigning NFL Comeback Player of the Year, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow didn’t feature in last year’s preseason after triumphantly returning from a gruesome season-ending knee injury suffered as a rookie in 2020. The former LSU signal-caller tore his ACL and MCL while doing further damage to his PCL and meniscus. Burrow made a full return to health in 2021, but there’s still little reason for Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor to place Burrow under center during the upcoming preseason.
Burrow was electric as a sophomore in 2021, completing 70.4% of his passing attempts en route to tossing for 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns. Burrow spearheaded the Bengals to an unlikely run to Super Bowl LVI, which ended in defeat to the Los Angeles Rams. Burrow and the Bengals return in 2022 with newfound expectations, and maintaining Burrow’s health throughout the summer should be Cincinnati’s top priority.
Bengals General Manager Duke Tobin retooled Cincinnati’s offensive line this summer, which may give Taylor even more reason to sit Burrow in August. Chemistry and communication should be built throughout non-contact practices, not when Burrow is at risk of being sacked by the opposition. We don’t expect to see Burrow in action this preseason.
ALVIN KAMARA, RB, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The soon-to-be 27-year-old Alvin Kamara has quite a bit of wear on his tires. Kamara carried the ball on a career-high 240 occasions last season while the Saints struggled to string together an effective passing attack. Kamara’s 287 total touches marked the fourth consecutive season he’s totaled 250-plus touches as both a runner and receiver. The heavy workloads may finally be getting to Kamara. The former Tennessee standout appeared in a career-low 13 regular-season contests in 2021 after suffering a mid-season knee injury.
Kamara didn’t feature in either of New Orleans’ two preseason contests last season (the third was canceled due to a weather-related issue), and there’s no reason to believe New Orleans’ approach will change this August. It’s worth noting Dennis Allen takes over for Sean Payton as the Saints’ new Head Coach, but Allen has been with the organization since 2015 and is unlikely to feel the need to assess Kamara during exhibition action.
Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis has poured resources into reviving his passing attack by drafting Chris Olave and signing Jarvis Landry. A returning Michael Thomas should also help Kamara remain healthy and effective throughout the 2022 season.
- Oct 02, 2023
- Oct 02, 2023