Signs point to big workload for Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey

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Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has had a busy offseason between helping save the life of a 72-year-old hiker who fell off a cliff in Colorado, hosting his first football camp for kids and learning a different system from new offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

Coach Ron Rivera expects the eighth overall pick of the 2017 draft to have a busy season as well.

Rivera said Monday that he sees no reason the former Stanford star can’t reach 200 carries after getting only 117 as a rookie.

“Everybody forgets when he was in college he ran between the tackles more than anybody and he touched the ball more than anybody,” Rivera said. “So I don’t see why not.”

McCaffrey had 337 carries for 2,019 yards in 14 games as the featured back during his second season at Stanford (2015) in addition to 45 catches. He had 253 carries in 11 games for 1,603 yards in 2016.

He wasn’t the featured back, at least in terms of the running game, last season as the Panthers relied on all-time leading rusher Jonathan Stewart. McCaffrey was more the change-of-pace back and a slot receiver, leading the team with 80 catches for 651 yards.5

But McCaffrey will be the featured back this season after the release of Stewart, now with the New York Giants. That and the addition of Turner point to a significant increase in carries for the 5-foot-11 back who has beefed up with five pounds of muscle to about 210.

Turner’s lead back had at least 200 carries in seven of his eight full seasons as an offensive coordinator with Dallas, San Diego, San Francisco, Cleveland and Minnesota. Five times the lead back topped 300 carries.

As a head coach, Turner’s lead back topped 200 carries 10 times in 15 seasons and 300 carries four times. Injuries typically were a factor when the lead back didn’t reach 200.

“Now with Norv and seeing some of the things he’s done in the past with some of the guys he’s had, I feel very comfortable that he’ll find ways to use him and get the ball to him,” Rivera said of nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

McCaffrey’s ability as a receiver shouldn’t affect his number of carries. Neither should the addition of free agent C.J. Anderson, signed to be the power back.

Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson is the best example under Turner. About the same size as McCaffrey at 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, Tomlinson had 339 carries in addition to 59 catches in 2001, his rookie season at San Diego, where Turner was offensive coordinator.