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Training Camp Buzz: Panthers' McCaffrey operating on step count; Chiefs' Hardman emerges as deep threat

The 2022 regular season is just around the corner, and NFL Network has you covered with wall-to-wall training camp coverage each day starting at 10 a.m. ET. Follow along here for some of the best sights, sounds and moments from "Inside Training Camp Live" and around the NFL.

CMC operating on 'step count'

Teams are at their best when they have their best on the field, so it's safe to say the Carolina Panthers have been far from it the last two seasons. Carolina's do-it-all running back, Christian McCaffrey, has managed to suit up for only 10 games across the last two years. In order to shed the injury-prone label and reestablish better availability, McCaffrey has attacked training camp using a pitch count -- which Inside Training Camp Live hosts Steve Mariucci and James Palmer have decided will henceforth be referred to as a "step count." NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport confirmed that McCaffrey has indeed been counting steps. The running back is managing his own reps during practices. As Rapoport put it, being able to hit the field each and every week is "an absolute paramount focus of McCaffrey this year." If the All-Pro RB can return to health, his form is never in doubt, and the Panthers could be looking at a resurgent year.

Bills have 'A Beautiful Mind' for the red zone

In the wake of Brian Daboll's departure to become head coach with the New York Giants, the Buffalo Bills promoted Ken Dorsey from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. According to NFL Network's Cynthia Frelund, Buffalo's offense won't look vastly different. The Bills will instead lean on their red zone efficiency, which ranked among the top in the NFL in 2021, as it transitions under a new coordinator. That starts with utilizing veteran leadership like Stefon Diggs, who Frelund tabbed as the second-most valuable wide receiver in the red zone at drawing extra coverage, as well as incorporating new wrinkles from Dorsey and situational plays for rookie RB James Cook. Dorsey is the perfect candidate to keep things rolling for a team that was potentially a coin toss away from advancing to the AFC Championship Game. The first reason for that is his familiarity with the offense, but it also doesn't hurt that backup QB Case Keenum recently told reporters that Dorsey’s call sheet looks like something from A Beautiful Mind.

Mahomes tabs Hardman as his new deep threat

With Tyreek Hill in Miami, Patrick Mahomes is looking for his next reliable deep threat. New additions JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are candidates for downfield targets, as are rookie Skyy Moore, Josh Gordon and the ever-reliable tight end Travis Kelce. But Mahomes projects that Mecole Hardman will be the man to take up Hill's mantle. "I think Mecole has taken that step of kind of filling … that spot that Tyreek did on those deep routes, and he's kind of accepted that challenge," Mahomes said on Inside Training Camp Live on Monday. "We'll have everybody kind of developing and kind of doing that different kind of stuff, but he's about to be a huge part of it and I'm excited for him."

Mayfield has 'inside track'

Although Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has been adamant about the quarterback position in Carolina starting as a 50/50 proposition, the fact that the team traded for Baker Mayfield has always tipped the Panthers' hand. The former Browns QB has the "inside track" for the starting job, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Inside Training Camp Live. Mayfield and Sam Darnold have been splitting reps evenly throughout training camp, but the writing is on the wall. "Based on the understanding he has of this offense," Rapoport said. "Based on the kind of plays he can make and the kind of command he's already getting inside this locker room, it certainly does seem like it's Baker Mayfield's job to win." As for reports floating around that Carolina was possibly shopping Darnold, the quarterback told reporters, "I talked to (general manager) Scott (Fitterer). He said not to worry about it. To be honest, before he even talked to me I didn't even see it. Like I continue to say, I'm just going to continue to do me and do what I can to put myself in a good position and this team in a good position."

Tolbert impressing on offense, Barr will mirror Parsons

Discussion in Dallas doesn't take long to circle back to the wide receiver position ever since James Washington broke his foot in practice. With Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson in different uniforms and Michael Gallup still recovering from a torn ACL, the Cowboys will need a new name to make highlights. According to NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero, the player in waiting could be a third-round rookie. "One of the guys they've been really impressed with is Jalen Tolbert, the rookie out of South Alabama," Pelissero said. "Excellent notetaker, he's into the details, and obviously a home-run threat, too." Pelissero noted that Dan Quinn's defense will also be looking toward a new addition for a boost this year. "They just signed longtime Viking Anthony Barr. They're thinking not really in the traditional Mike and Will linebacker positions. At times, it's going to be like Anthony Barr -- it's not going to be full-time. It's going to be situational. But he can mirror with Micah Parsons, both of them off-the-ball linebackers who are threats to go after the passer."

Colts will involve Hines, searching for No. 2 WR

Running back Jonathan Taylor was an unstoppable force in 2021. The Indianapolis Colts responded accordingly by feeding him the rock, but the dependency on Taylor also led to an absence of touches for Nyheim Hines. On Inside Training Camp Live, NFL Network's Cameron Wolfe revealed how the Colts plan to right that wrong. "I've heard a lot of two-back system they're going to work with him," Wolfe said. "Using him out of the slot with Jonathan Taylor, not in place of him. One thing they got frustrated with last season is they felt like Nyheim Hines was underutilized in this offense. So, watch (for) a lot of two-back system, Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines, as they try to find who's going to be the other guys other than Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman." Wolfe added that Indianapolis is looking at Alec Pierce, Parris Campbell or Ashton Dulin to step up as a secondary receiving option opposite Pittman.

Joe Burrow ditches the cart

Despite an appendectomy robbing Joe Burrow of the beginning of training camp, he's been a constant presence for the Bengals. He's spent the last week patrolling Cincinnati's practices in a cart, even driving through some conditioning drills alongside his teammates. While some Monday morning quarterbacks may still be hoping from their armchairs that seated sprints offer a new genre of exercise, Burrow is intent to move on. The third-year QB shed his wheels today to attend practice on his own two feet. The question now is how soon Burrow will go from standing and watching to dropping back and throwing. Head coach Zac Taylor wasn't willing to give reporters anything concrete after practice, but he admitted that Burrow is looking good in recovery. "I think what you see is what you get," Taylor said, per Jay Morrison of The Athletic. "He looks good to me. He's starting to get better every single day. Again, I don't want to put a timeline on when he gets out here and starts throwing and stuff, but it's been encouraging."

Training Camp highlights

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