Shi Smith - Carolina Panthers WR
Just 12 months ago, Shi Smith was flying in camp and preseason as he solidified himself as the Carolina Panthers' starting slot receiver heading into the campaign. Despite the early promise shown by the former South Carolina Gamecock, inconsistent play and drops meant he slid down the depth chart as the season progressed and now, finds himself locked in a battle to make the final 53-man roster.
In the first preseason outing, Smith had a solitary reception for 20 yards. However, little critique can be leveled at the player as Carolina struggled to create any offense.
Heading into camp, it seemed Smith firmly found himself on the bubble fighting for one of the last roster spots. After struggling with the return game a season ago and the emergence of Raheem Blackshear, making the team appeared even more difficult.
As fortune would have it, the path for Smith may have gotten a little easier on Wednesday when the Panthers placed Damiere Byrd on injured/reserve with a hamstring complication. The free-agent signing impressed many and likely had the edge thanks to his returning prowess. With Byrd likely to be done, that leaves the final wideout position up for grabs.
This could mean Smith and Derek Wright are in direct competition for the spot and currently, the undrafted free agent is coming out on top. He was Carolina's highest-graded offensive player in Preseason Week 1 according to Pro Football Focus, building on another positive camp at Wofford College.
All hope is not lost, however. If Smith can find the form he showed last summer, he’ll be in a good position to make the roster in 2023.