The Panthers spent plenty of time this offseason talking about how the addition of Christian McCaffrey opened up possibilities for the offense and they wasted no time matching their actions to their words.
McCaffrey lined up as a tailback, a fullback, a slot receiver and an outside receiver while playing on 70 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in their 23-3 victory over the 49ers. That was more snaps than anyone outside of Cam Newton and the offensive line and McCaffrey’s 18 touches — 13 carries and five catches — were behind Jonathan Stewart‘s 20 for most on the team.
If it wasn’t obvious that McCaffrey will be a big part of the offense before, it’s obvious now. Coach Ron Rivera wants to be sure that their excitement about all McCaffrey can do doesn’t lead the Panthers to overuse him, however.
“It’s like getting that new toy at Christmas,” Rivera said, via ESPN.com. “You open up the box and there’s what you’d hoped for. But you also have to be wise and smart about when you play with it and when you don’t, because you don’t want to wear the batteries out. You don’t want to break it. What you want to do is utilize it and have fun with it.”
McCaffrey can make plays with the ball in his hands, but offensive coordinator Mike Shula and Rivera also pointed out how his presence seemed to open things up for others on offense. For that to happen, McCaffrey obviously needs to be on the field so the coaches will have to do some balancing to make sure their new toy stays bright and shiny.