Which five players have the most to prove in the Carolina Panthers preseason opener against the New York Jets?
The preseason opener against the Jets is fast approaching, and the first iteration of the depth chart was released. A few players on the current roster will have to fight their way onto the 53 or into a solid role on the Carolina Panthers this season.
Preseason is the best chance for these players to prove what they got to the coaching staff. Those buried on the depth chart will get the opportunity to play, showcase their talents, and demonstrate what they bring to the team starting against the New York Jets tomorrow.
However, five players, in particular, have the most to prove in Carolina's game against the Jets. They need to perform well to gain traction.
Shi Smith - Carolina Panthers WR
All of the off-season additions to the wide receiver room have made it very crowded. One of the wideouts at risk of getting dropped from the roster is Shi Smith.
The sixth wide receiver spot on a team's depth chart usually is reserved for a return specialist that can add a different element to an offense. While Smith does have quickness, he has struggled as a returner so far throughout his NFL career.
The former South Carolina Gamecock had four fumbles and mostly posed a risk of muffing or coughing up the football in the return game. And that is one area he was expected to excel in.
However, Smith had some bright moments when on the field last season. In his six offensive starts, he had 22 catches - 14 of those were for first downs. He brings a lot of speed and quickness to the receiving core, but it seems like he will get very few chances to line up even if his quest to make the team is successful.
What that means for Smith is he will have to show signs of improvement on offense and special teams in the preseason if he wants to keep his spot. The return of Damiere Byrd to the Carolina Panthers hurt his chances initially, but with Byrd's recent injury in training camp, he now has a better chance of retaining his position on the depth chart and the team.
Still, Smith will have to earn that spot by playing well. He should get plenty of chances to do that against the Jets to open the preseason.