4 Panthers that must improve to secure long-term future beyond 2022

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Bravvion Roy
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Bravvion Roy /
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Carolina Panthers
(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports) Shi Smith /

Shi Smith – Carolina Panthers WR

After bouncing back in the best possible way this summer, Shi Smith forced his way onto the Carolina Panthers rotation both as a wide receiver and during kick return duties. This was a positive step for the former sixth-round pick, who was seldom seen as a rookie and an offseason arrest did nothing to install confidence from a reliability standpoint.

It’s not been as smooth sailing for Smith in a competitive environment. The South Carolina product has just eight receptions from 21 targets for 106 receiving yards, which simply isn’t good enough all things considered.

He has failed to register a single reception in the three games after Matt Rhule’s firing from just three targets. Terrace Marshall Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. are coming to the fore rapidly, which is laying down the gauntlet to Smith in no uncertain terms.

Overcoming adversity is nothing new to Smith in his professional career so far. However, seeing 14.3 percent of his catchable targets dropped in 2022 is not a good look.

There have been some nice moments on special teams that the player can build upon. Although he’s averaging a modest 8.3 yards per return, Smith is explosive and elusive enough to make a difference providing those in front of him live up to their end of the bargain.

A huge few weeks await Smith before the time comes to begin preparing for the new campaign. But with the wideout looking like Carolina’s No. 4 option right now, just how much he’ll be involved is debatable.