Byrd may end up having a big impact for the Carolina Panthers…
Earlier in the month, I wrote how it would be wise for the Carolina Panthers to keep Damiere Byrd. I also wrote in June that time might be running out for the speedster. One of the bigger questions that has popped up throughout the offseason is what his role on the team would be.
Monday, we were given somewhat of an answer. The role that Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer predicted would not only guarantee him a spot on the team, he would also be relied upon in crucial situations. Luckily, this is a role he has taken on before.
"Byrd certainly looks to be the favorite to win the kick return role, but the Panthers have other options there and at punt return. Curtis Samuel averaged 22.1 on 10 kickoff run-backs as a rookie, while Kenjon Barner handled punts and kickoffs for the Eagles’ Super Bowl-winning team in 2017. Barner was signed after return specialist Fozzy Whittaker tore his ACL during OTAs."
As some may remember, Byrd had a tremendous game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on December 24. He caught 10 passes for 105 yards and returned a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown. Unfortunately, he was suffered an injury in that game and was placed on injured reserve December 26.
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He has the explosiveness to be a dependable kick returner and if that is all his role is, that is perfectly fine. Look at Devin Hester and what he accomplished during the course of his career. He made a living making kickoff coverage teams look silly. Now, I am not suggesting that Byrd is the second coming of Hester. I am suggesting that players have made a living purely being kickoff return specialists, and have excelled. Where a team starts a drive is obviously very important, and a kick returner has a very important job to do. It is one of the most overlooked jobs on a football team.
If Byrd can be a special teams weapon, that will help the Carolina Panthers become an even better-rounded team. If he can add a contribution from the wide receiver position too, that would be even better. Byrd could very easily end up becoming the “Swiss Army Knife” of the team.
For now, it appears the kick returner position will end up being the one where he can make the most impact. Wirth his explosiveness and shiftiness, it will be fun to see what he can do in the role.