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Behind Enemy Lines: Christian McCaffrey Is Creating Big-Play Opportunities For His Teammates

Posted Oct 10, 2017

After a convincing win over the Arizona Cardinals, the Eagles head to Carolina for a Thursday night game against the Panthers in a matchup of 4-1 teams. Thursday's game airs on CBS and NFL Network, and will also stream on Amazon Prime at 8:25 p.m. with Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, and Tracy Wolfson on the call. You can also listen to Merrill Reese and Mike Quick on SportsRadio 94WIP or on PhiladelphiaEagles.com. Our live coverage begins with The Kickoff Show presented by Axalta at 8 p.m.

In this week's Behind Enemy Lines, Max Henson from Panthers.com previews the matchup from Carolina's perspective. He can be found on Twitter @PanthersMax.

1. How is Cam Newton in 2017 different than 2015 MVP Cam Newton?

Max Henson: Well, this year’s version came off offseason shoulder surgery, which made for a challenging Training Camp and preseason. But now that Newton has been able to build strength in the shoulder and shake off some rust, he’s looked like he did during that incredibly productive 2015 campaign.

In the last two weeks – road wins at New England and Detroit – Newton has thrown for 671 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception. The Panthers don’t want to run him as much as they did during that 2015 season, but they’ll do it judiciously, which gives the defense another thing to worry about and gets Newton going.

2. How has this offense been able to transition from a run-first philosophy to the passing attack we’ve seen in recent weeks?

Max Henson: Newton’s improved health is the biggest reason.

At the start of the season, the Panthers wouldn’t have been able to lean so heavily on Newton’s arm – the shoulder just wasn’t strong enough to handle it. But he turned a corner in the past couple weeks, and it’s been hugely important.

Carolina still wants to establish the run game first and foremost – that has always been head coach Ron Rivera’s priority. They struggled to do that against the Lions last week, accumulating just 28 yards on the ground, and that’s something they know can’t continue.

3. How has Julius Peppers been able to turn back the clock and what has he meant for this defense?

Max Henson: Peppers is a freak. He’s always been that way, and he just refuses to slow down despite being 37 years old. His presence alone makes this defense more confident, and his pass rush ability (5.5 sacks already) has made a formidable defensive front deeper and more disruptive.

His return to Carolina was clearly more than just a nice story. He’s been one of the most consistently productive players on the roster through five weeks.

4. Who is an X-factor to watch on offense and defense?

Max Henson: Offensively, it’s running back Christian McCaffrey. The explosive rookie lines up all over the place and he’s attracted a ton of attention from opposing defenses, which has created a lot of big-play opportunities for others.

Defensively, I’ll go with defensive tackles Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. That duo is very difficult to run against, and their ability to create interior disruption is the biggest reason why Carolina has made life so difficult for opposing quarterbacks. When they’re wreaking havoc, the linebackers and edge rushers benefit. That’s when the Panthers' defense is at its best.

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