Shi Smith showing heart to earn prominent Panthers role in 2022

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shi Smith
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shi Smith /

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Shi Smith has displayed plenty of heart to surge his way into the team’s plans in 2022. 

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Shi Smith had his work cut out this offseason. His anonymous rookie campaign and arrest before the Carolina Panthers met up for training camp weren’t ideal and meant his future with the franchise was hanging in the balance despite the wide receiver’s obvious talent.

This obviously provided Smith with all the urgency needed to establish himself throughout the summer. His production and notable strides have been nothing short of exceptional, which has seen the Panthers elevate the South Carolina product from a bubble candidate to someone in contention for the third wideout spot behind D.J. Moore and Robbie Anderson.

Smith coming to the fore is remarkable all things considered. The former sixth-round selection has focused on football, displaying a tremendous heart that’s allowed his talent to shine at the best time possible with the obvious cloud hanging over him heading into the preparation period.

The Panthers didn’t have much to shout about from their pass-catchers outside of Moore in 2021. Providing there’s no steep regression in the coming weeks before Carolina takes the field in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns, Smith could be an X-factor within Ben McAdoo’s scheme that can help enormously.

Shi Smith drawing praise from Carolina Panthers players and coaches

After another standout practice on Tuesday, head coach Matt Rhule was gushing in his praise of Smith, who is now a lock to make the team and might even generate his fair share of targets for good measure.

"“I think Shi, he gives us a shot in the arm no matter who else is on the roster. I think if everyone is healthy, Shi is still one of our top guys out there.”"

Smith’s meteoric rise hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates, either. When asked about the multi-purpose weapon after Tuesday’s session, All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey stated that the Panthers will have a serious weapon on their hands if he can put it all together in a competitive environment.

"“I think that we’re going to keep pushing him along. He’s a guy who has so much skill and can be a serious weapon for us. But there’s another step I know he knows that he can take, so we’re urging him to get there.”"

This is far better than even the most loyal Smith supporter could have envisaged.

Just why he wasn’t utilized more in 2021 is anyone’s guess. But the player’s significant development is set to leave Carolina’s coaching staff with no choice other than to give him what he’s earned.

Smith is dynamic with the football in his hands. He looks tailormade for a slot receiver role and if the second-year pro’s blossoming chemistry with quarterback Baker Mayfield transitions into the regular season, the Panthers will benefit enormously.

With lingering concerns about Terrace Marshall Jr.’s health, the opportunity is there for Smith. Something the receiver is keen not to waste based on his recent practice efforts and catching the eye during the preseason.

This time of year is all about seizing chances. Smith has done just that in no uncertain terms and he could be a surprise some teams don’t see coming based on his inactivity last season.

One cannot praise Smith enough for the way he’s applied himself this offseason. Talent will only get you so far in the NFL – but his heart is what’s set him apart from most within the wide receiver room heading into the campaign.

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