When the Carolina Panthers selected former Arkansas receiver Joe Adams in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft, expectations were for him to contribute during his rookie season both as a receiver and return man.
However, the exact opposite happened last season.
The former first-team All-American cracked the rotation initially as the team’s kick returner, but he quickly let his role slip away. After fumbling a return in the opening game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Adams coughed up two balls in Week 3 against the New York Giants. The three fumbles, two of which were recovered by the opposing team, led to Adams losing his job as the kick returner, putting him on the inactive list until Week 11.
After returning to the field in Week 11 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Adams was active for the next six games, catching just one pass for seven yards. He also had three rush attempts for 13 yards. He also suffered yet another fumble in Week 16 against the Oakland Raiders.
Adams finished the year with three more fumbles than catches, certainly far from expectations for the former college standout.
In 2013, the Panthers can’t afford for Adams to continue his struggles both offensively and on special teams. Adams is a rare talent who can prove to be a valuable commodity for quarterback Cam Newton. For a team that had just three wide receivers record double-digit receptions in 2012, another receiver must step up this season.
Carolina didn’t address its need at wide receiver in April’s draft, making it clear that Adams will have a much larger role in the offense in 2013. He will get plenty of opportunities to display his impressive skill set during the preseason, and ultimately the offense’s need for another contributing pass catcher will overcome Adams’ 2012 struggles.
Adams may not be able to live up to the task, but the Panthers desperately need him to step up this season.