Panthers looking to monitor workload of Christian McCaffrey, what that means for his touches this season
McCaffrey had 326 touches last season in his second year in the NFL
Christian McCaffrey had his breakout season in 2018, becoming one of the most dynamic backs in the NFL with 1,965 yards from scrimmage. McCaffrey was the Carolina Panthers offense as Cam Newton struggled with his throwing shoulder, having 1,098 rushing yards on 219 carries (5.0 yards per carry) with seven touchdowns and 107 catches for 867 yards and six touchdowns.
Not only did McCaffrey amass 300 touches, but he played all 16 games in taking the Panthers offense to 10th in the league in yards. The Panthers need McCaffrey in order to make the playoffs, so keeping him healthy is their top priority.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera admitted the team will monitor McCaffrey's workload, even if he's just 23 years old.
"We want him to have his 300 touches," Rivera said to Jeffri Chadiha of NFL Network. "We just don't want him to do all the other stuff. That's the thing we have to do judiciously. We have to figure out the best opportunities to get the ball in his hands and the best opportunity to not have him in the game.
"When (McCaffrey plays), he also could be running a specific route. He could be stepping up for pass pro. He could be blocking for other things. If we can take 100 of those (situations) off him, it would be better. We don't want to take away his touches. We want to take away his excessive load."
The Panthers still want McCaffrey to be the dynamic back he can be, but limiting his snaps in pass protection and making sure he has a better target rate in the passing game is one step toward keeping him healthy. McCaffrey played 966 of the Panthers' 1,068 offense snaps last season, an astonishing 91.3 percent. Quite an amazing feat for a running back, especially one the size of McCaffrey (5-11, 205).
Carolina doesn't have many backup options at running back to spell McCaffrey. Cameron Artis-Payne is listed as the second running back on the depth chart, hasn't had much action in the passing game the last two years (four catches for 17 yards). Jordan Scarlett, the Panthers' fifth-round pick out of Florida, is more of a physical runner than a pass-catcher.
The best way for Carolina to manage McCaffrey is to limit his carries and keep him active in the passing game, even if they wish to monitor his workload. Carolina doesn't have many options if it wishes to sit McCaffrey for a few plays and take a few tasks off his plate.
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