CHARLOTTE – Christian McCaffrey leads all NFL running backs in one interesting category: snap percentage.
McCaffrey has played 439 of 456 offensive snaps so far this season, or 96.3 percent.
Here's what the top seven looks like:
|1. Christian McCffrey||439||96.3%|
|2. Ezekiel Elliot||397||89.0%|
|3. James Conner||421||84.4%|
|4. Saquon Barkley||436||84.2%|
|5. Todd Gurley||455||83.3%|
|6. David Johnson||373||83.1%|
|7. Alvin Kamara||337||71.9%|
Did head coach Ron Rivera anticipate this kind of workload ahead of McCaffrey's second season?
"I am a little surprised at that. That he's out there playing that many snaps? Yeah, to be honest with you I am surprised," Rivera said. "But people need to understand we are not featuring him all the time."
That's obviously a key factor in all of this. McCaffrey ranks 18th overall with 92 carries and he is fourth among all running backs with 44 catches. He's averaging just under 20 touches a game, 19.4 to be exact.
But just having McCaffrey out there is clearly vital for offensive coordinator Norv Turner's plan week to week.
"He's a huge decoy. When you see that cross action, those zip reverses, fake reverses, whatever you want to call, just having him on the field creates that doubt and it helps us against our opponents," Rivera said.
Any way you slice it, playing 96 percent of the snaps as a running back in today's NFL is going to raise some eyebrows.
Whether his playing time continues at this rate remains to be seen, but Rivera is fully confident he can handle the workload.
And to McCaffrey's credit, he had been preparing himself for the rigors of professional football long before he was drafted in the first round. The stretching routines, the diet, all the work that goes into maintaining his body – that stuff makes a difference.
"Christian came in understanding how important that was. A lot of guys don't learn until five or six years in," Rivera said.
So yeah, McCaffrey is on the field more than any running back in the league. But he just might be the most well-conditioned.
"Without a doubt," Rivera said. "Without a doubt."