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Photo: Bernhard Lang/Getty Images

From the "Air Raid" to run-pass options (RPOs), modern NFL offenses are more dangerous than ever because of one word: space. They use the whole field — and they're fast.

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.

Christian McCaffrey. Photo: Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images
  • 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)
Devin White. Photo: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • 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.

Go deeper

Biden confronts mounting humanitarian crisis at the border

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Pool/Getty Images     

Just over a month into his presidency, President Biden is staring down a mounting crisis at the border that could be just as bad as the ones faced by Barack Obama and Donald Trump, if not worse.

Why it matters: Immigration is an issue that can consume a presidency. It's intensely and poisonously partisan. It's complicated. And the lives and welfare of vulnerable children hang in the balance.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
48 mins ago - Economy & Business

The rise of vaccine passports

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Vaccine passports were touted early in the pandemic as an important piece of the plan to get people back to normal life. Now they’re becoming a reality.

Driving the news: CLEAR, the secure digital identity app that you see in airports around the world, and CommonPass, a health app that lets users securely access vaccination records and COVID test results, have joined forces.

"Vaccine tourism" stretches states' supplies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans who are highly motivated to get vaccinated are traveling across state lines after hearing about larger vaccine supplies or loopholes in sign-up systems.

Why it matters: "Vaccine tourism" raises ethical and legal questions, and could worsen the racial socioeconomic and racial inequalities of the pandemic.