The Carolina Panthers invested a high draft pick in Christian McCaffrey in 2017, but it seems C.J. Anderson will enter 2018 as their conventional feature back.
When the Panthers made the controversial decision to cut Jonathan Stewart, most fans expected Christian McCaffrey to ascend to his role at the top of the depth chart. Evidently, the acquisition of C.J. Anderson has changed the team’s thinking.
Reports emanating from Charlotte claim that Anderson, not McCaffrey, is positioned to start the year as the team’s number one “traditional running back.” That doesn’t mean McCaffrey won’t get plenty of touches, but it does indicate a larger role for Anderson than most people anticipated.
Maybe we shouldn’t really be surprised. Both Ron Rivera and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner have typically relied heavily on a power run game. McCaffrey struggled mightily running the ball between the tackles in his rookie season. In sharp contrast, that’s just what Anderson does best. Using the former Broncos back to bludgeon the defense early in games could pay big dividends for the Panthers in the fourth quarter.
It’s not as if Anderson isn’t an accomplished NFL running back. He did rush for 1,007 yards for a pretty mediocre Denver offense last season. The Panthers didn’t pay much to get him, but he could turn out to be one of the summer’s biggest bargains.
Don’t expect him to hit the 1,000-yard mark again this season. Even if the Panthers use him heavily as a traditional running back, McCaffrey is still in line to get at least an equal share of touches. His talent as a receiver makes him an invaluable weapon for Cam Newton. Expect Turner’s offensive scheme to give McCaffrey even more chances to makes plays in the passing game.
Panthers fans expecting to see a wildly exotic offensive scheme under Turner this season are in for a disappointment. The news that Anderson is going to carry a heavy load rules out the possibility that Carolina will be abandoning the power run game. Expect Turner to tweak the offense in subtle, but impactful ways. That will allow both Anderson and McCaffrey to get plenty of touches in 2018.