Carolina’s second round pick, Curtis Samuel, strained his hamstring in the first practice of training camp. He hasn’t practiced since. Samuel, in conjunction with Christian McCaffrey, was believed to be a key part of Carolina’s plan to evolve into a faster, more dynamic unit. Bringing speed and versatility was going to take the pressure off of Cam and the offensive line. McCaffrey and Samuel could be moved around the field, playing multiple positions, and exploiting defensive weaknesses.
When asked if Carolina was having to make adjustments in Samuel’s absence, Ron Rivera stated, “No adjustments. We’re installing our offense. We’re not going to wait on anybody. He’ll just have to pick it up when he gets out there.” It seemed a frustrated answer from a coach who has just seen the general manager axed and opened camp with a start quarterback rehabbing from shoulder surgery and their biggest free agent acquisition struggle with a groin injury.
Rivera is just pointing out the obvious, the NFL waits for no one. Samuel is an exciting prospect for sure. Fans expectations have probably been a little higher than they should for a second round pick. He’s definitely not polished enough to have the luxury of missing needed practice at the pro level. Even if he had been healthy from the start, his role and ultimate potential need exploring. Carolina can’t wait, but they are going to have to adjust. Samuel’s role was undetermined going into camp and now it has been relegated by more than just what he can do, but what the staff hasn’t seen, what they have yet to learn, and what the speedster can really do.
Rivera is right, Carolina is installing its offense. It’s just a limited one handicapped by injury. Any offense being practiced without Cam is just a fraction of what Carolina can and will want to do this season. Christian McCaffrey, albeit juking everyone from here to Spartanburg, is only a hood ornament to a machine powered by Cam Newton.
Samuel will have to “pick it up when he gets on the field. Rivera and Shula will have to as well. The evolved offense Rivera has mentioned so frequently over the past year can’t be static one that players have to “pick up.” It should be an offense that is more responsive to what players on your team can and can’t do. If Samuel is going to be a part of that, he will need to pick it up, but Carolina will also need to adjust.
By Tony Dunn
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