Every Carolina Panthers fan knows that Steve Smith can flat out ball, but what other receivers can produce? The Panthers have neglected time and time again during draft season to select a legitimate No. 2 receiver and it has cost them mightily. On the flip side though, Brandon Lafell has developed into a nice possession receiver, and Ted Ginn Jr. has the speed to stretch defenses. Greg Olsen has become invaluable at the tight end spot, becoming the matchup nightmare and safety net that Cam Newton needs over the middle. Here’s a look at the Panthers’ receiving corps:
Steve Smith has long been the man in Carolina and he has shown no signs of diminishing from his Pro Bowl level. Brandon Lafell has been a solid draft pick for the Panthers and looks comfortable in the No. 2 spot, but lacks the speed to really break away from defenders and draw attention away from Smith. Ted Ginn Jr. has always been known for his game-breaking speed, but he lacks the hands and toughness to consistently make catches in the slot. Behind the first three are Armanti Edwards and Domenik Hixon, both of which are unproven. Edwards had a good preseason but hasn’t lived up to his third-round potential, while Hixon hasn’t seen enough time for the Panthers due to injury. Someone must take the pressure off Smith in the passing game for this team to succeed, but who will is a mystery.
Greg Olsen has developed into a premier tight end in the new hyper-athletic mold. While he doesn’t have the athleticism of Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski, he still poses a problem for slower linebackers and smaller safeties. Behind Olsen, the Panthers lack much talent with Ben Hartsock and Brandon Williams, and also Richie Brockel playing the role of the H-back. All three will play complimentary roles and will be key in blocking, but don’t look for them to catch many passes. Olsen should shine this year as Cam plays more conservatively, using the big guy to make easy completions.