The Carolina Panthers released Ray-Ray McCloud after mixed results to start the season.
When the Carolina Panthers resume games following their bye week a new return plan will be in place for both kickoffs and punts. Just prior to the start of regular season play Carolina added former sixth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills, Ray-Ray McCloud, in order to bolster their return game.
Almost immediately the results were positive. McCloud made some questionable decisions but routinely appeared as if he was just steps away from breaking a scoring return. Unfortunately, his inconsistency began to surface in a Week 2 contest versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McCloud muffed a couple of punts and eventually, fellow wide receiver Chris Hogan received an opportunity on kick return.
Since, Hogan has been placed on injured reserve and is out for the remainder of 2019, leaving no other Panthers player with return experience this season. Apparently, the Panthers aren’t worried as McCloud was released in a bye week move that sets up opportunities for others currently on the roster or elsewhere.
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Coach Ron Rivera didn’t appear too concerned about the opening, according to Grant Gordon of NFL.com – “We’ll take a look and see what’s available out there,” Rivera said. The bye week offers Carolina a few extra days but with special teams playing an important role, getting a quality kick returner should be a priority down the stretch.
Running back Christian McCaffrey obviously has the skill set to contribute but after being relied upon so heavily on offense, it is unlikely his role is expanded. Elsewhere, the Panthers have options currently on the roster in Reggie Bonnafon or Curtis Samuel but could also sign an outside candidate.
Regardless, the Panthers need someone who is sure-handed and makes quality decisions. Special teams can change the momentum of a game, put the offense or defense in a position to be successful, or lose a game if not executed properly and the Panthers now have a vacancy to fill.
Find out who ultimately is granted the opportunity when Carolina returns to the gridiron against San Francisco on Sunday, October 27 at 4:05pm ET.