4 second-year Carolina Panthers players with most at stake in 2022

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shi Smith /

87. . WR. Carolina Panthers. SHI SMITH. 3. player

Shi Smith – Carolina Panthers WR

It was a damning indictment of Shi Smith‘s adjustment to the pros that he was unable to generate much time on the field. This was despite the Carolina Panthers having almost no consistency in the wide receiver room last season aside from D.J. Moore. This makes Year 2 of Smith’s stint with the team hugely important.

The former South Carolina stud was seen as a value pickup in the sixth round last spring. Smith flashed in the preseason but was seldom seen after that, generating just six receptions from 11 targets in the six games the wideout was active.

He was also arrested earlier this offseason, which isn’t ideal. The Panthers added Rashard Higgins to their options and decided not to trade Robbie Anderson, so the task awaiting Smith in the coming weeks is as steep as it gets.

The athleticism and talent are there. But last season was a harsh learning curve for Smith and it’s vital he puts this experience to good use this time around.

Perhaps the best way Smith can integrate himself into the team’s plans is as a punt returner. If he shines on special teams, then more could follow once the coaching staff gains additional confidence in his abilities.