Panthers Look To Win With Underdog Receiving Corps
By Corey Cook
The Carolina Panthers shuffled players all around the board this offseason, so the roster will look completely different heading into 2014. This is true at many spots, but is most prevalent at the wide receiver position. Carolina's receiving corps has been completely revamped from last year, and it will be extremely interesting to see how this new group complements one another.
Long gone are the old days of seeing the familiar face of Steve Smith yelling for the ball to be thrown his way. In fact, none of the starting wideouts from last season's group are even on the team – Smith, Brandon LaFell, Domenik Hixon and Ted Ginn Jr. will all be wearing different uniforms this upcoming season. These players were either let go for salary cap reasons or because they were not living up to the team's expectations. Either way, it will be exciting to see who now emerges from the shadows to become Carolina's true No.1 wide receiver in the absence of Smith.
The only players left on Carolina's roster that had any real potential after the mass exodus were Marvin McNutt and Tavarres King. Both were given limited playing time since they had been buried on the depth chart, but still managed to show flashes of ability from time to time. It is just a matter now of how quickly they can develop given this new opportunity to shine.
Carolina also added several intriguing players through free agency at the beginning of the offseason. The Panthers signed Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery to bring in proven hands and veteran leadership to the team. They also signed Tiquan Underwood, who I believe will be the real wild card going into the season. Underwood was a hot name in Tampa Bay for a brief time last season and could really become the deep threat the Panthers need. Ginn Jr. was always a snap away from making a big play and Underwood could be that player as well.
When the NFL Draft rolled around, Carolina was looking somewhat solid at the position, but still lacked that player with superstar potential. With the 28th pick, the Panthers selected WR Kelvin Benjamin out of Florida State and all doubts were removed. Adding Benjamin was huge for the Panthers because he is a big body with tons of potential. He is the most likely to become the new No. 1 target in Carolina and will take tons of pressure off the rest of the receivers. With Benjamin now on the roster, the rest of the players can fill their designated roles on the team.
The Panthers now have a group of wide receivers who are either unproven or are considered mediocre veterans. They must embrace the chip on their shoulders and find their own individual niche on this team. Carolina’s receivers are definitely viewed as a group of underdogs heading into this season, but the talent is there for them to become a special cast. They will probably have a rocky start at first as they become adjusted, but look for some really special moments later in the season.
Either way, QB Cam Newton is going to have some fun with his new weapons.