Christian McCaffrey's usage in Week 1 simply wasn't enough.
Fourteen touches produced 57 yards and one touchdown for the running back in Week 1 as part of an offense that gained 261 total yards. Cleveland dominated the ground game, outgaining Carolina 217 to 54 in rushing yards, and McCaffrey averaged just six yards per reception, with the Browns frequently bottling him up shortly after he received passes.
That's simply not enough production from a star player and focal point of the Panthers' offense. Still, Panthers coach Matt Rhule remains undeterred in his approach with McCaffrey.
"I think whatever the number is, somebody's going to question it," Rhule said Wednesday of McCaffrey's workload, via the Associated Press' Steve Reed.
The Panthers are understandably exercising caution when it comes to McCaffrey, who is taking Wednesdays off for additional recovery following two injury-filled campaigns. That's part of a larger plan to prevent another season-hampering injury, one the Panthers have followed throughout training camp into the season, with McCaffrey telling reporters he was focused on "recovering hard" in early August.
McCaffrey is known as a hard worker who may have put himself in a precarious position entering the 2020 season due to overtraining, but even after adjusting his methods entering 2021, he still suffered another injury that cost him most of the year. This time around, McCaffrey and the Panthers are doubling down on recovery efforts.
It's wise, but the team must find a healthy balance between the two. McCaffrey's role in the offense is one of a game-breaking talent who can tilt the scales in favor of the Panthers with just a few big plays, and he must be on the field enough to have opportunities to do so.
It seems Carolina will have to feel out how to properly involve McCaffrey in the game plan while also preserving his health. Week 1's approach wasn't good enough, but there are still 16 games ahead. Expect McCaffrey to play a significant role in more than a few of them.