After the great migration of Panthers receivers in the off-season, Carolina regrouped with the signing of veteran wideouts to surround franchise Cam Newton with maybe not the flash of a Steve Smith, but the reliability of a receiving corp which includes Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant. By bringing in experience targets, Carolina surely will miss the passion and play from Smith, but may actually improve over the next few seasons due to the depth brought to the team at the position.
Along with the savvy know-how involving the position, Cotchery, Avant as well as Tiquian Underwood will become mentors to the raw talent the Panthers have in their young receivers. First round selection Kelvin Benjamin has earned rave reviews early in camp and will be looked at as the main prospect to become Newton’s favorite target.
However, with the praised given to Benjamin, Carolina has also seen promise from lesser known young receivers who could make an impact on the field if they can make the 53 man roster.
The 6’3 210 pound wideout has the body to become a legitimate receiver for Carolina. In his first season for the Panthers, the Wofford product only saw the practice squad, but the undrafted Bersin has been admired by head coach Ron Rivera for his blocking ability. Wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl believes Bersin could be a “darkhorse” for Carolina if he can make the roster due to his tremendous blocking talents.
The former Ohio State wideout may make the roster in order to replace a former Buckeye product. With Ted Ginn Jr signing with the Arizona Cardinals in free agency, a legitimate punt and kick returner in college, Brown could potentially be a replacement as a special teams specialist if he is added to the roster.
The former Georgia Bulldog has had a problem in the past with drops, but has the skill to make an impact for Carolina. King has shown enough promise that head coach Rivera stated that some of the roster decisions regarding the teams receivers were due in order to let King and Marvin McNutt to grow as receivers with experience. Released from the Denver Broncos in October, King was claimed off waivers by Carolina and was kept on the roster. Given the chance to show his talents, look for King among the young receivers outside of Kelvin Benjamin to have the largest impact for the Panthers.
Undrafted out of Missouri, Lewis is closely similar to Benjamin in size being 6’5 and weighting 220 pounds. The former Tiger’s natural talent is a key reason Carolina may keep Lewis at least on the practice squad. A four year athlete at Missouri, Lewis actually had more receptions last season compared to Benjamin (58 to 54) and had better numbers than Benjamin at the Combine in the shuttle time, the cone drill, the vertical jump, and fell one hundredth of a second short of Benjamin’s 40-yard dash time (4.61 seconds). A strong work ethic in the film room and on the field, Lewis like King could have a large impact on Carolina if he makes the team.
Formerly a quarterback and a defensive back, Presley at 5’10 and 185 pounds is another young Panther who has received praise from coach Rivera. A backup to former Panther and Appalachian state Mountaineer Armanti Edwards at school, Presley like Edwards is not familiar to the position of wideout, so it will be interesting to see if Ron Rivera can atone for the failed Edwards experiment in Presley.
As one of only two members of the Panthers roster at the beginning of the offseason to catch a professional pass, Clemons, formally of the Jacksonville Jaguars has the quickness to make the Carolina roster. Yet, has failed to make past practice squads and must hone his natural talent into being more of a wide receiver rather just being a great athlete.
At 6’3 and 216 pounds, McNutt has shown skills which make him a likely member of the 53 man roster. Signed off Miami’s practice squad, McNutt has a strong set of hands and even though he went five games for Carolina without a catch, McNutt nearly missed a touchdown grab in the final game last season against the Falcons. If McNutt performs consistently in OTAs and improves his blocking ability, he should make the roster.
Pilares demonstrated promise as a special team specialist early in the 2012 campaign before injuries deterred growth in the second half of that year as well as last season. The Panthers will most likely only bring in one returner so watch out for the speedy battle between Pilares and Brown for a returner spot.
Tags: Carolina Panthers