The Carolina Panthers have a lot of talent on offense. Most importantly, they have Cam Newton who is a solid, young, mobile quarterback to build the team around. They still have Steve Smith, the team leader in receiving yards, and Greg Olsen who is a sure-handed tight end. The Panthers’ ground game has had some bumps along the road with injuries, but one has to acknowledge the skill set of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. What the Panthers really lack, and have for a while, is a reliable number two wide receiver.
After Mushin Muhammad‘s first departure in 2004, the Panthers saw a quick drop in production from their number two receiver. In 2004 Muhammad had over 1,400 receiving yards, followed by Keary Colbert with 754 yards. When Muhammad left, the Panthers drafted Smith in 2001. He went on to the lead the team with 1,563 receiving yards and Colbert fell to only 282 yards. Muhammad made a welcomed return in 2008, and even with his age, was a solid number two receiver, combining with Smith for over 2,300 receiving yards. However, that was short lived because Muhammad retired after the next season.
Since then, the Panthers have made several attempts to draft another receiver to balance the passing game and relieve Smith of some double coverage. Unfortunately, the Panthers came up short year after year because of many different issues. Whether it was an issue with the player and playbook, problems off the field, or injuries, the Panthers have yet to find a partner for their star player. This made it easier for teams to play pass defense, focusing their attention only on Smith.
The Panthers then drafted Brandon LaFell in 2010, and he has since been considered the best option for the second receiver position. In 2011 the Panthers acquired Olsen and Jeremy Shockey, two solid veteran tight ends who were sure to draw some attention from defenses. Although Olsen was a fantastic addition, he still wasn’t enough to relieve double coverage on Smith and LaFell just wasn’t developing fast enough. In 2012, Newton threw for just 3,869 yards as the NFL‘s leading passer threw for 5,177. Of those yards, Smith only got a little over a 1,000 yards, and on the Panthers roster, LaFell was third on the team with 677 receiving yards. Declining numbers are never a good sign for any offense.
In the 2013 preseason Panther fans have seen numerous important balls dropped by second and third string wide receivers. For the opportunity they have and for the money they are making, they should be catching balls that hit them in between the numbers. The Panthers wide receiver corps has potential to make great plays, but they are not the consistent threat that the Panthers need. Smith will continue to be double teamed every week until the Panthers can finally get a veteran player who has already established himself in the league. Drafting a wide receiver the past few years just hasn’t worked out. Management needs to dig deep into their pockets and bring in a guy who can open up the field to give Newton another solid target to aim for.