SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Christian McCaffrey has received a lot of praise since the Carolina Panthers selected him with the eighth pick of the NFL draft, but none higher than he got Sunday from his backfield mate.
“He’s pretty unstoppable as far as coming out of the backfield and running routes,” Pro Bowl running back Jonathan Stewart said. “I can tell you now there’s not going to be anybody in this league that can cover him one-on-one.
“He’s a special player.”
The Panthers took McCaffrey in the first round because of his versatility as a running back and receiver. He has shown throughout the first week of training camp few can stay with him in open space.
He already has gotten the best of Pro Bowl linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis with open-field moves. Kuechly said the former Stanford star has “shakes.”
“He’s very precise with his movements,” Kuechly said. “He’s in and out of breaks quick. I think he’s going to be somebody that helps us out.”
Stewart typically is soft-spoken and reserved with his comments. But he couldn’t say enough good things about the 2015 Heisman Trophy runner-up, who broke Barry Sanders’ NCAA record for all-purpose yards in a season.
Stewart said it starts with McCaffrey’s preparation.
“His preparation is like a vet, which it should be,” he said. “Like rookies learn when they get into the league every year, there’s no such thing as being a rookie.
“His approach to the game, his focus, his mental on the craft is a 10.”
Stewart will share the backfield with McCaffrey this season as he did with DeAngelo Williams early in his career. Stewart is considered the power back and McCaffrey a change-of-pace back who also can play slot receiver.
The Panthers also have lined McCaffrey up wide in training camp in attempts to get him paired one-on-one with a defender.
Stewart called McCaffrey’s first step “deadly.”
“You want to call me the big bruiser or whatever,” he said. “I don’t know what you’re going to call him. But he’s a special player and we’ve got to use him the right way.”