When the Carolina Panthers signed D.J. Hackett, they were filling a need position. The team had been in search of someone to help elevate their offense. But they may have been looking for more than that.
Dwayne Jarrett’s recent off-field problems and Muhsin Muhammad’s age could be issues, though Muhammad will almost assuredly be a major player in the offense.
With some question marks at the receiver position even before the team released Drew Carter and Keary Colbert, Jarrett’s problems simply helped to emphasize the issue. The question had to be asked if Jarrett was going to be their guy. He had problems learning the playbook and, as a result, his playing time was sparce in ’07.
Then came the DWI.
Team officials have assured us that Jarrett would be a primary target in the passing game and that his problems would not lessen his role in the offense.
However, the message sent to Hackett’s agent, Kevin Robinson, would indicate other wise.
There’s a good chance he will be the team’s starter opposite Steve Smith. In fact, Robinson said the Panthers assured Hackett that he would be their No. 2 receiver.
“That’s what they told him,” Robinson said.
However, Marty Hurney wasn’t ready to declare Hackett the starter, although clearly he is in the mix.
“He is a guy who has been productive in this league and is someone we feel can come in and compete for the No. 2 spot,” said Panthers general manager Marty Hurney. (Gaston Gazette)
It ceratinly sounds like Hackett is “in the mix” if his agent gets an assurance from the team like that one.
The perception of Hackett has been that he is injury prone. He has missed 13 games over the last two seasons. But his agent says otherwise.
“He wasn’t hurt,” Robinson said. “But they needed the roster spot so they stashed him on IR. That’s the funny thing, now there’s a perception he’s injury prone.”
We know when he’s healthy that D.J. can make plays. He’s proven that. But he should get the opportunity to prove to everyone that he’s able to stay healthy and on the field next season. And if he’s healthy, the competition could be fierce.
Sure, with a lot of hard work Jarrett could still wrestle the number two spot away. Muhammad has an edge because of experience. But it may be Hackett’s job.
Where would this leave everyone else? With Hackett as the team’s starter outside, Jarrett or Moose would have to play in the slot. And there’s always the option to move them around in a three-receiver set.
No matter what happens and no matter who starts where, this could be an interesting battle in training camp to watch.
Welcome to Carolina, D.J.!
More to come in Quick Hits…
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