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Christian McCaffrey: "First Look"

April 10, 2017
The Redskins are on the prowl and looking to upgrade both sides of the ball at the end of this month in the NFL Draft.

Yesterday, we profiled the addition of an offensive lineman and provided some early analysis on two prospects that are drawing interest from Bruce Allen and company.

Obi Melifonwu, a athletic freak of a safety from UCONN and Christian McCaffrey from Stanford have both emerged on the Redskins radar screen.

There’s one thing in common between both players. Both are versatile and athletic, explosive players.

We’ll get to Melifonwu’s tape via in a separate post but we begin our in-depth look at the Stanford Swiss-Army knife weapon, McCaffrey.

His family’s name of course was already well known because of Christian’s Dad, Ed, was a very productive wide receiver for a long time and a Super Bowl champion.

I admit I don’t always get to watch a lot of college football during the season because of my work schedule, so Saturday’s in the fall are hit and miss for me.

Stanford is not often on my menu despite my respect for how they usually run that program. David Shaw, the Cardinal’s head coach is well respected and runs a very pro-style offense that NFL teams seem to love.

When I think of Stanford’s offense, traditionally, I picture a two-back system and short receiver routes, featuring a stiff tight end. That’s the vision that pops in my head, which is unfair but that’s what I typically think of.

When you watch Stanford with Christian McCaffrey isolated, you see a very different picture. Let’s look.

Stanford vs. USC 2016:

** Stanford used McCaffrey out of a traditional two-back I-formation under-center look at times. But that was just one small part of how they featured this weapon.

**McCaffrey converted on a couple of third-and-one situations out of the I-back look, and up the middle. Both times in this spot, he used patience and vision to get the necessary yardage. This is important because the Redskins haven’t always had the success in this type of spot that they need.

**McCaffrey fumbled on his first attempt of the USC game but his team recovered. It’s going to happen to everyone, but it seems like one of the reason why McCaffrey’s stock keeps climbing is that he takes care of the football.

**One of the parts of McCaffrey’s skill-set that has everyone drooling is what he can do as a  receiver whether he’s out of the backfield, in the slot or just lined up with a wide split. You see all of that from McCaffrey on the tape cut-ups provided via

On one play, McCaffrey ran a wheel route to his left after being lined up with a dual split in the backfield. The other back, the quarterback and McCaffrey were all lined up at the same depth, side by side and boom, Stanford’s # 5 blew past a linebacker for a homerun in perfect stride.

He also caught a pass in the flat after running in motion from right to left. Another play, showed McCaffrey lined up wide to the left. He runs a go route with a hard stop, causing the corner to bite. He blows past the defender and is wide open. If Stanford’s quarterback doesn’t overthrow him by a wide margin, it’s another huge play and possibly a score.

**Another way Stanford used McCaffrey was in wildcat with a direct snap. They ran a receiver in motion for a jet sweep look and Christian found some space in the running game. They did a direct snap twice in this game with different looks.

**I loved the way he used his hands to glide off potential tacklers and to re-establish his balance.

**McCaffrey was also used out of a wishbone type formation a time or two in this game, and when Stanford was in close to the goal line, they kept pounding him repeatedly, until he finally leaped into the end zone for a touchdown on fourth down.

Stanford Vs. UCLA 2015:

**McCaffrey showed excellent vision on an inside zone cross face handoff from right to left for a huge gain of 25 yards on the first play for Stanford.  

**Special teams is an area that McCaffrey can also help at. The Redskins haven’t had a great kick return option for a long time and need one. In this game against UCLA, McCaffrey nailed a kick return of 96 yards. When he found space, he hit the hole and accelerated. He can also be utilized in the punt return role. 

**Once again, McCaffrey used a stiff-arm technique a few times for success.

**Stanford also used the direct snap/wildcat in this game. McCaffrey pulled down a bad snap (high/left), secured the football, and still had the ability to make a  nice cut in the hole, using good vision and hit pay dirt for a rushing touchdown.

**Another look and usage of McCaffrey for Stanford was to pull the right guard to his left with a fullback lead, McCaffrey bypassed a cutback lane to explode off left shoulder of the pulling guard for a TD.

**Stanford also ran a triple reverse in this game featuring McCaffrey.

**One other thing that stood out at times was McCaffrey’s ability to spin off defenders to deflect contact. 

Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins for Monumental Sports Network ( & Warpath Magazine. Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN