Jul 28, 2013; Spartanburg, SC USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn (19) catches a pass while being defended by cornerback Josh Thomas (22) during training camp held at Wofford College. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Fans Split on Ted Ginn, Jr.'s Potential with the Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers 2013 roster has a number of new faces that the fans like to talk about…Star Lotulelei and why he fell in our laps, the wisdom of drafting Kawann Short, and even late pick Kenyon Barner from Chip Kelley’s Oregon Ducks team.

Out of all the players on the Panthers roster today, no player seems to have elicited more discussion, debate, and division than Ted Ginn, Jr.

I’m really wondering why that is, as the guy already has 6 NFL seasons behind him.

Yep, six – 3 with the Miami Dolphins and 3 with the San Francisco 49’ers….and the former 9th overall pick of those Dolphins has, so far, had an extremely pedestrian career.

If you average out his stats, a “composite” season from Ginn would look like this:

27 rec 341 yds 1 TD

YAWN, man! THIS is the sort of line people are getting all excited about? I just shrug. Seriously – if he had better production, he wouldn’t have ever been a Panther in the first place. He’d have cost too much against the tight Carolina salary cap.

Excuses abound from the fans – “he had no QB in Miami:” FALSE – Chad Pennington’s 2008 season saw him complete over 67% of his passes and finish second in NFL MVP voting and win the Comeback Player of the Year award. It was Ginn’s second (and best) NFL season.

There was too much talent in San Fran for him to see the field: TRUE – there was a lot of “talent” there, but FALSE – most of that “talent” was injured, forcing the organization to bring in a Randy Moss who was well past his prime and Braylon Edwards, who had long ago showed that great college players don’t always make great professional ones, whatever the reason may be.

If you’re an otherwise good team that’s down to bringing in players past their prime and also-rans, it smacks of desperation and “all that great WR talent” in San Francisco produced a whopping 3 yards receiving by the WR corps in the 2011 NFC Championship game. That’s WITH a healthy Ted Ginn. In that game, Ginn was targeted 0 times and couldn’t see the field past such greats like Delanie Walker and Kyle Williams. In 2012, they added Mario Manningham.

Ginn was never a factor with the Niners even after QB guru Jim Harbaugh took over the team that year. The following (last) year, he had 2 catches for one whole yard.

Actually a better and more accurate “excuse” for Ginn’s lack of production might be that he simply doesn’t have the greatest skill set for a wide receiver perhaps? Compare to Clyde Gates – former Dolphin and current Jet receiver. Similar size, similar speed, and unfortunately, similar career paths so far.

Speed isn’t the only thing you need to succeed in the NFL and I’ve seen more players, teams, fans, owners, and GMs fall in love with it. The Miami Dolphins are my favorite AFC team and I’ve been following them since before the Carolina Panthers came into existence (and before Dan Marino’s arrival in fact), so I remember some of the talk around that draft.

Ginn was a bit of a surprising pick at #9 overall due to his rather small stature. He measured under 6 feet at the NFL Combine after having been listed at 6’1″ in the OSU press guides. He’s under 200 lbs, so he’s not going to be a strong guy, either, compared to a Brandon Marshall type. Although I’ve often seen him used as an outside receiver, his frame suggests he’d be better off playing in the slot.

Slot receivers must play off the line due to rules on NFL offensive formations, and would allow him to use his quickness and speed to largely avoid press coverage – the physical play from CBs that Ginn doesn’t have the size nor the strength to fight off. Steve Smith is even a bit shorter than Ginn, but is known for his extreme explosive vertical leap and for being one of the strongest WRs in the NFL of ANY size.

The ONLY game I’ve ever seen Teddy “take over” was a win against the New York Jets that 2nd season – Ginn’s best, and with Pennington at QB – where he returned two kickoffs for TDs in the game. Notice that receiving wasn’t mentioned.

Fans climb all over me for being “down on Ted:” again – FALSE – I’m simply pointing out the truth about the man. He’s never been a productive wideout despite getting a second chance with an entirely different ball club once the Dolphins had seen enough of him.

He’s certainly had his chance before WITH GOOD QBs in Pennington and Alex Smith, but there IS a glimmer of hope for him these days.

With his speed (as low as a 4.28 in college drills), he’s a lot better-suited for a vertical passing attack rather than the west-coast style the Niners ran with noodle-armed but accurate QB Alex Smith, and Pennington was the same way.

Cam has the arm to get the ball deep and deep in a hurry and that plays directly into Ted’s strength. The problem I think he’ll have is with that “average” acceleration against veteran corners that know his game already – his skills are pretty much backward from what you want in a West Coast Offense.

Jul 27, 2013; Spartanburg, SC USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn (19) catches a pass during practice held at at Wofford College. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

In a WCO, great speed is secondary – you want receivers that are quicker, more precise route-runners who can make the catch and RAC it up…run after the catch. That’s not Ted’s game.

After watching the first preseason game, I thought Derek Anderson looked horrible, but oddly enough after watching the game all over again for a second time, what I saw was Derek Anderson looking horrible when Ted Ginn was the target.

Hmm, why is that? He completed some nice passes to guys like David Gettis, Kealoha Pilares and Armanti Edwards, but Ginn caught a single pass for 17 yards after being targeted 7 times. Why was the QB so off-target ONLY to Ted?

When things are like that, it’s usually because the WR and QB aren’t on the same page. People say “well, some of the passes to him were wildly off-target!” Yes, and that’s usually for the same reason – the receiver isn’t making the same read that the QB is.

While some of that is to be expected from a young WR with a new team, Derek Anderson has been with the Panthers for a few years now and Ginn is new to the Panthers, so it looks like Ginn is still mis-reading coverages on option routes. That would explain why several passes weren’t just a hair off but yards off.

Fans yell “but he looks GREAT in camp!” TRUE – but then again that’s been his M.O. for his entire career. He’ll have some great camps, then have a day where he’s back to dropping easy passes. This is the EXACT SAME CONVERSATION I heard from San Francisco fans, excited about the “new deep threat” in town.

How’d that work out for the Niners?

Unfortunately, training camp practice doesn’t always translate into games, and this first preseason game underscored all the things I just said and really is history repeating itself so far. Looks great in shorts on the practice field, but unfortunately, football games aren’t played in shorts.

Check out “The top 15 Workout Warriors of the 2011 NFL Combine” from the Bleacher Report. I’ll bet you anything you wish that you haven’t even HEARD of half of the guys, and Cam Newton was ranked #3. Da’Quan Bowers was #1.

November 25, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive back Rafael Bush (25) recovers a loose ball after San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Ted Ginn (19) bobbled a kick return during second quarter of their game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Just out of curiosity, I did a little digging on what people have said about Mr. Ginn.

“Ted Ginn is No Bust” – read it – It was apparently penned during the offseason between Ted’s second and third seasons.

How’d that work out?

“Niners Nation Scouting Report, Ted Ginn, Jr.” has it wrong about Ginn’s acceleration. When I see his OSU game tape, I see a guy who starts out and seems fast enough, but doesn’t hit that top gear for about ten yards after the last cut he’s made. At least that author was honest and confessed to being an Ohio State fan, which colors his entire analysis.

Interestingly enough, that same writer gave a best case/worse case scenario:

Best Case Comparison: Steve Smith, an undersized guy who is nevertheless an excellent receiver and a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Worst Case Comparison: Dante Hall, a great return man who doesn’t make a significant contribution to the offense.

Looking back at his six-year career, he clearly, squarely fits in the “Dante Hall” camp. It’s not even close.

The problem is that while you can not only get away with rounding off routes in college but flourish, everyone who has ever played in the NFL will tell you “in high school, you’re open by yards. In college, you’re open by feet. In the NFL, you’ve got a defender playing in your back pocket.”

There is one dubious “record” Ginn holds from his NFL Combine days – he’s still the shortest WR (5’11”) drafted as high as #9 in the last 7 years.

Perhaps people are so blinded by his speed that they fail to see his deficiencies? Things like the LACK of elite acceleration I’ve pointed out, average hands, dropped passes/concentration issues, mediocre route-running and low awareness.

Oct 29, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Ted Ginn (19) returns the opening kickoff during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

That route-running problem was what we saw on display during the first preseason game and was indeed what I saw when Derek Anderson’s passes went astray….Derek was making the correct reads and Ginn wasn’t.

It’s either that, or all the OTHER receivers AND Derek Anderson consistently made the wrong reads, but the SAME wrong reads, so they wound up on the same page together purely by accident and I’m NOT BUYING that one.

A little of that can be chalked up to the new system/new team thing, but that still doesn’t explain why he’s showed this same pattern his entire career.

Does he have a low football IQ? Possibly, but I haven’t heard that sort of talk. His official NFL Combine speed was a 4.35-40. Nice, but not Tavon Austin or Chris Johnson “nice.” The fastest combine time that year was from Yamon Figurs with a 4.30. Unfortunately, the foot injury Ginn had wouldn’t allow him to participate in other NFL Combine drills.

Do you really need further proof than Yamon Figurs that speed isn’t the be-all and end-all to NFL receivers, or do I need to throw out the name Darrius Heyward-Bey as well?

Let’s put it this way:

After 3 seasons, the Dolphins ejected Ted Ginn, Jr. In those 3 years, he’d totaled 128 receptions for 1,664 yards and 5 TDs.

In 2006 alone, Brandon Marshall had 104 receptions for 1,255 yards and 6 TDs with the Broncos…in 15 games.

I still stand by my thoughts that while Ted might possibly find a niche stretching the defense and in a roundabout way help to open up the offense – for the OTHER players with his speed on the field – he’s not going to suddenly become this superstar fantasy stud that some fans seem bent on him turning into.

He now has a fairly long history at the NFL level but never has shown the consistency, precise route-running, nor hands and concentration that are hallmarks of the great receivers in the game. To think that somehow he’ll magically become the player some fans are insisting he WILL be is living real life as a fantasy football owner truly living a fantasy. If you guys like him that much, draft him in the final round of your Fantasy Football league. He’ll be there. That should tell you something as well.

But can he succeed? I suppose anything is possible, but I’m not so naive to think that somehow ALL his previous NFL coaches were so inept as to be unable to help him reach his once-huge potential. Perhaps he’s a “system” WR and a vertical passing attack is his “fit.” We just don’t know yet.

Perhaps for whatever reason things will finally “click” for Ginn this year in Carolina, and I certainly do hope so. I’m just not kidding myself about him and trying to be realistic based on his past.

Players get underrated AND overrated ALL the time. Given his NFL production (or lack of it), Ted clearly falls into that latter category. Some fans choose to eschew his on-the-field production in favor of his Workout Warrior status in training camp. That’s fine for those fans – knock yourself out.

I, however, tend to go with what I see on game film and past production in games that actually count in the statistics, and he’s never, ever been the threat on the NFL level that he was in college in the offense.

One thing is certain, however: He IS the most dynamic and explosive kick returner on the Panthers’ roster.

If all else fails, we Carolina Panthers fans should rejoice in that. For the price the Panthers paid for him, any upside he shows will be a bargain.

Follow me on Twitter @Ken_Dye

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