Can Keith Kirkwood make an instant impact for the Panthers?

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The Carolina Panthers have formally activated Keith Kirkwood for the first time, but can the wide receiver make an instant impact against the Chicago Bears?

It has been a long road to this moment for Keith Kirkwood. The wide receiver has endured a frustrating start to life with the Carolina Panthers but has now formally been activated to the 53-man roster in time for their Week 6 game against the Chicago Bears at Bank of America Stadium.

Kirkwood came into the organization at the start of training camp and has worked with offensive coordinator Joe Brady and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater before during their time together with the New Orleans Saints. If he was hoping this would give him an edge in pursuit of a prominent role with the Carolina Panthers, then he was out of luck initially.

A broken clavicle midway through the camp saw Kirkwood go to the injured/reserve list. But there was at least one encouraging sign for the player in that the Panthers didn’t completely cut ties when they were well within their right to do so.

He has worked hard to come back from the injury quickly and might see his first snaps of the season against Chicago’s vaunted defensive unit that has been nothing short of sensational through five weeks of the campaign. Kirkwood would be a surprise addition to the passing attack in terms of targets at this juncture, but there is nothing to suggest it is not a possibility, at the very least.

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How Keith Kirkwood can help the Carolina Panthers.

Kirkwood is highly thought of by Carolina’s coaching staff, of that there is little doubt. He has some big-play ability in the right situation and his previous knowledge of the scheme should allow him to make a smooth transition to the lineup if they choose to go in this particular direction.

Another thing Kirkwood has going for him is the lack of production from roleplayers in the passing game. The likes of Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel have all made impressive contributions. But the same cannot be said of Pharoh Cooper, Seth Roberts, and Brandon Zylstra.

They have been used sparingly by the Panthers so far, and when one considers the absence of Christian McCaffrey coupled with almost no meaningful influence on proceedings coming from their tight ends, it only enhances Kirkwood’s potential to come in and make an immediate impression.

Kirkwood didn’t see much in the way of action for the Saints in 2019. But he did manage to bring in 13 of 21 targets for 209 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 2018.

It is unlikely that the Panthers will want the wideout to do a great deal in his first game back. But if he wants his fair share of targets going forward then he must make the most of opportunities when they come.

The wait is finally over for Kirkwood and Carolina’s loyal fanbase.

Getting back to health after a brutal injury was only half the battle. So delivering on the field when it matters most will be equally as important and if Kirkwood can achieve this, then it will be another big boost to an offense that has been a real bright spark for the Panthers this season.