Photo: Bernhard Lang/Getty Images
The impact: This evolution has resulted in a revolution at multiple positions, both on offense and defense.
- The ground-and-pound running back has morphed into a versatile, all-around threat who can line up anywhere on the field and create a mismatch.
- The run-stopping inside linebacker has morphed into a speed demon, capable of rushing the QB and defending slot receivers/pass-catching TEs.
- The slot, or "nickel," cornerback, formerly a third-down reserve, has morphed into a de facto starter and one of the most important positions on the team.
When the Panthers host the Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football (8:20pm ET, NFLN), we'll get to see 2 of these modern "archetypes" go head-to-head. They'll be matched up all over the field.
- Name: Christian McCaffrey
- Archetype: Versatile RB threat; Playmaker
- The big picture: "McCaffrey played football, basketball, baseball, and track throughout his youth. … Panthers coach Ron Rivera said that these all-around athletes [are] the key to the future of the NFL." (The Ringer)
- Name: Devin White
- Archetype: Coverage LB; Sideline-to-sideline
- By the numbers: 3 teams have used top-10 picks on coverage linebackers in the last 2 years: Roquan Smith (Bears, 2018), White (Buccaneers, 2019) and Devin Bush (Steelers, 2019). 10–20 years ago, these guys would have been safeties.