CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has had a busy offseason between helping save the life of a 72-year-old hiker who fell off a cliff in Colorado, hosting his first football camp for kids and learning a different system from new offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
Coach Ron Rivera expects the eighth overall pick of the 2017 draft to have a busy season as well.
Rivera said Monday that he sees no reason the former Stanford star can't reach 200 carries after getting only 117 as a rookie.
"Everybody forgets when he was in college he ran between the tackles more than anybody and he touched the ball more than anybody," Rivera said. "So I don't see why not."
McCaffrey had 337 carries for 2,019 yards in 14 games as the featured back during his second season at Stanford (2015) in addition to 45 catches. He had 253 carries in 11 games for 1,603 yards in 2016.
He wasn't the featured back, at least in terms of the running game, last season as the Panthers relied on all-time leading rusher Jonathan Stewart. McCaffrey was more the change-of-pace back and a slot receiver, leading the team with 80 catches for 651 yards.
But McCaffrey will be the featured back this season after the release of Stewart, now with the New York Giants. That and the addition of Turner point to a significant increase in carries for the 5-foot-11 back who has beefed up with five pounds of muscle to about 210.
Turner's lead back had at least 200 carries in seven of his eight full seasons as an offensive coordinator with Dallas, San Diego, San Francisco, Cleveland and Minnesota. Five times the lead back topped 300 carries.
As a head coach, Turner's lead back topped 200 carries 10 times in 15 seasons and 300 carries four times. Injuries typically were a factor when the lead back didn't reach 200.
"Now with Norv and seeing some of the things he's done in the past with some of the guys he's had, I feel very comfortable that he'll find ways to use him and get the ball to him," Rivera said of McCaffrey.
McCaffrey's ability as a receiver shouldn't affect his number of carries. Neither should the addition of free agent C.J. Anderson, signed to be the power back.
Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson is the best example under Turner. About the same size as McCaffrey at 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, Tomlinson had 339 carries in addition to 59 catches in 2001, his rookie season at San Diego, where Turner was offensive coordinator.
Tomlinson averaged 276 carries in his first three seasons after Turner returned as the head coach in 2007.
So 200 carries for McCaffrey isn't a stretch. He'd have to average just 12.5 carries in 16 games, about five more per game than he had in 2017.
If he gets to that mark, it will be the fourth time since Rivera arrived in 2011 that a Panthers back topped 200 carries. DeAngelo Williams had 201 in 2013. Stewart had 242 in 2015 and 218 in 2016.
"I really like the growth we've seen in Christian, learning how to do things and do things the right way," Rivera said.
Last season across the league, 17 backs topped 200 carries, led by Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell with 321. Bell also had 85 catches on 107 targets.
McCaffrey showed while at Stanford that he is a lot like Bell in his ability to maneuver through holes up the middle and get around the corner. He just didn't get as many opportunities last season, because Stewart had 198 carries and quarterback Cam Newton had a career-high 139.
Turner recently told ESPN he'd like to see Newton make the pass his second option after handing off instead of keeping the ball himself. So McCaffrey also could pick up some of Newton's carries.
Tomlinson told the team website this year he can't wait to see Turner's impact on McCaffrey.
"We all know the glaring thing that Christian excels at, and that's coming out of the backfield and catching the ball," he said. "Norv will create those matchups for him in a way that he's never seen before. That will be really good, but the thing I'm excited about seeing is how Norv is going to use him in the run game.
"Norv is going to get him on the perimeter. He's going to call the things that Christian does well -- getting him on the edge, getting him in space. So you'll see a lot of those toss plays, you will see the misdirection plays. ...To me, Christian will be the guy, the premier player in that offense."
McCaffrey laughed and gave his typical modest answer when asked if he expected his role to expand under Turner.
"It's not up to me, man," he said. "I just show up every day. Obviously, everybody on the team wants the ball as much as possible. You should. Once again, we're here to win football games. Whatever that takes, that's what we'll do."