It was hard to tell who most of the crowd in Charlotte was there to see.
While there were plenty of Clemson fans in the building who drove up for the debut of Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, Panthers first-round running back Christian McCaffrey didn’t disappoint.
Except maybe himself.
McCaffrey had seven carries for 33 yards in his first game action, with one run that nearly broke for something more.
“I felt like I could’ve made one more cut maybe and would’ve broken one. But it is what it is,” McCaffrey said, via Bill Voth of the team’s official website. “Sometimes they don’t fall your way, but I had a blast out there playing.”
The Panthers weren’t going to unveil their entire plan for the rookie running back, but there were hints about his potential. They mixed in a few zone runs to get him in space, but having played in Stanford coach David Shaw’s system, he’s capable of running inside and they did some of that too. The one screen pass they sent his way was batted down at the line, but they are upbeat about the complement he creates for their power-based running game.
“You kind of felt that he just might pop one,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “It’s exciting. He’s a great change-up to what we want to do with Jonathan [Stewart], and I think he’s going to open up some things for everybody.”
He was also an object of fascination for the local fans, even the ones who weren’t cheering for the college hero in the other uniform.