The departure of Tyler Gaffney to the New England Patriots last week sent a shockwave through the Carolina Panthers‘ backfield depth chart. The departure of Gaffney has opened the door for an undrafted free agent out of UAB to slide into the recently vacated slot, and earn some decent playing time in 2014.
Darrin Reaves was a long-shot to make the Carolina Panthers’ roster when he was signed by Carolina, but the rookie has already impressed many thus far at Training Camp in Spartanburg.
Listed officially on the Panthers.com roster at 5’10″ and 220-pounds, Reaves looks much more compact in person than the generous measurements provided. Despite his size, the UAB-product runs with an agenda and has broken off a few eye-catching plays thus far during Training Camp and OTAs.
Darrin Reaves is not a threat to steal a starting gig in Carolina, and is better suited as a rotational back a la Khiry Robinson from New Orleans in 2013.
Reaves does not excel at any one facet of the game that would make him jump off the screen, but he does several things well. He is the perfect style of back to spell the aging DeAngelo Williams and oft-injured Jonathan Stewart. Reaves is the kind of RB that will tote the rock six-to-ten times a game and take advantage of a worn-down defense late in games.
While at UAB, he amassed over 2,300 rushing yards and 70 receptions. In 2013, Reaves ran for over 900 yards and 12 touchdowns, and put up over 1,000 yards in 2012. He ran mostly from the pistol for the Blazers and is very comfortable in the read-option, a trait that will suit him well in Carolina.
Reaves’ is strong running between the tackles and rarely goes down on the first hit. He is very adept at bouncing it outside, and picking up the blitz. Reaves is a great receiving option out of the backfield and has good vision with the ball in his hands. He lacks elite breakaway speed, is not necessarily a “physical” back, yet he is adequate in both of these areas.
In Carolina, Reaves will look good lined up beside Newton much the way Kenjon Barner did in ’13. Barner was unable to get his groove going last year, so Reaves will look to succeed in Mike Shula’s offense, where Barner did not.
We know that “Double Trouble” will be the one-two punch at running back this year, but that doesn’t mean that Darrin Reaves won’t find the field. According to Bill Voth at BlackandBlueReview.com, the stout RB has shined in practices and shown an ability to shift on defenders and make them miss.
When deciding whether or not to come
out after his sophomore season, Reaves checked-in with the NFL Draft Advisory Board to gauge his potential.
The Board gave Reaves a fourth-round grade, and that was enough for the youngster to hang up his Blazers helmet, and trade it in for a shot at an NFL roster. He was predicted to go as early as the fourth round, and as late as the seventh round. As is the gamble for any potential draftee, Reaves did not get selected over the NFL Draft weekend.
Reaves’ disappointment, turned into Carolina’s happiness as they landed a back with some very likable qualities. After going undrafted, there’s no doubt the kid will also bring a competitive chip on his shoulder as his motivation to succeed.
If Darrin Reaves keeps up the kind of play that he’s been exhibiting this summer, the coaches will find a way to get him touches this season. His receiving ability out of the backfield and blitz pick-up are remarkable given his experience. It hurt to lose Tyler Gaffney, but Darrin Reaves will be the silver lining as a result. Keep an eye out for this rookie Cat Crave Nation, you will be impressed with what you see.