Panthers begin process of evolving offense with RB McCaffrey
CHARLOTTE, NC (STEVE REED, AP) — Panthers coach Ron Rivera talked after the season about the need for Carolina’s offense to evolve.
He feels like the Panthers now have the player to make that happen.
The Panthers selected versatile running back from Stanford with the No. 8 pick in the NFL draft, giving former league MVP Cam Newton some needed help on offense.
Along with his ability to run the ball, the 5-foot-10, 202-pound McCaffrey has the ability to play slot receiver and will also return punts, Rivera said. McCaffrey set an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015, rushing for 2,019 yards along with 645 yards receiving and 1,070 on returns.
Rivera said McCaffrey’s position versatility will allow the Panthers to use him in “many different ways” and create mismatches for opposing defenses.
“He can make an impact very early for us,” Rivera said.
McCaffrey refuses to pigeonhole himself into a particular position and said he’ll play wherever the Panthers need him.
“I’m a football player,” McCaffrey said. “I don’t put a title on what I am. If you need me to go to wideout, I can go to wideout. If you need me to run between the tackles I can do that as well. There are such a variety of different things I can do and that is something I pride myself on.”
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman called McCaffrey the best “tackle box runner” he’s seen since Curtis Martin, referring to his ability to run between the offensive tackles.
The Panthers don’t share some critics’ view that McCaffrey’s size doesn’t translate to him being an every down running back in the NFL. They believe the fact that McCaffrey averaged more than 30 touches per game over the last two seasons — more than any player in college football — is proof enough that he’s durable.
But McCaffrey won’t have to carry the load in Carolina anyway — at least not right away.
He’s expected to split time with nine-year veteran Jonathan Stewart, who signed a two-year contract extension earlier this offseason.