Many casual fans would probably have a hard time naming a Carolina Panthers‘ wide receiver other than Steve Smith. The Panthers aren’t exactly known as one of the pass-happy teams in today’s NFL, but they do have some up-and-coming players to keep an eye on in their receiving corps. One such player, is fourth-year WR Brandon LaFell.
It took LaFell a couple of years, but he’s worked himself firmly into the No. 2 receiver spot on the Panthers. As a rookie in 2010, he saw the field in limited action, but still managed to haul in 38 passes for 468 yards. Then each of the last two seasons, he’s eclipsed the 600-yard mark and totaled up seven touchdowns. His efforts in 2011 put him behind Smith on the depth chart, and that’s right were he stands as the Panthers get ready for training camp.
The Carolina offense is in good shape around LaFell. The nucleus of the unit has been intact for a couple years now, and all that time together is going to start to pay off. The Panthers’ ground game is solid and Cam Newton is as dynamic as they come at QB. Greg Olsen is a very reliable tight end, and we all know what the veteran Smith is capable of in the receiving game. Overall, the Carolina offense is very well balanced.
LaFell should still get plenty of one-on-one coverage playing opposite of Smith, and Newton’s playmaking ability is going to continue to buy him a lot of time to break free. With the entire Panthers’ offense on the rise, LaFell is going to go up a level right along with it. After three years in the league, it’s time he starts to make his case for being Smith’s eventual replacement. If he doesn’t improve his numbers across the board in 2013, the Panthers will have no choice but to look at next year’s draft for a better candidate.
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