News Item

Panthers seek improvement from receiving corps

5/31/2017 10:51:00 AM
CHARLOTTE -- One of the best ways for some of the shortcomings that hit quarterback Cam Newton last season to be reversed will be for production among receivers to hit a significant uptick.

And during OTAs, it's an ideal time to evaluate the options among the wideouts and others who might contribute to the passing attack.

The Carolina Panthers are seeing a heavy dose of that again this week, with a few new twists.

Devin Funchess is among the receivers who might be ready to move more toward the forefront, particularly as he enters his third season.

"He's confident. He had a really good camp last year and a good year," head coach Ron Rivera said. "We could have used him better."

That is bound to be part of the formula to make Newton more efficient so he can be closer to the form he showed during a Most Valuable Player season in 2015.

Now it's a matter of using the resources that will be available.

Second-round draft pick Chris Samuel made his debut in OTAs after missing the first week because of a personal matter. Samuel is one of the players the staff wants to take a close look at, but it's clear it will take time to get him up to speed.

Samuels, who played at Ohio State, should add a speed component to the receiving corps. He put that on display during his initial workout with the veterans.

Funchess has emerged in what Rivera described as a leadership role because of his willingness to help newcomers to the team.

"Watch how he's dealing with the younger players," Rivera said. "That was really neat to see. He's willing to share with the younger guys."

Undrafted wide receiver Austin Duke has turned heads. He played in college for Charlotte, so he could turn out to be a rather local favorite should he stick around.

If nothing else, he's someone observers have been talking about when it comes to the receivers.

"Some of these guys are going to get opportunities," Rivera said. "We'll see if they can step up and take advantage of them."

The Panthers also have added wide receiver Charles Johnson (not to be confused with the veteran defensive lineman with the same name) to bolster the depth. He'll be in his fifth NFL season after the last three with the Minnesota Vikings, though he has been mostly an observer during the team workouts so far.

And, there's the scrutiny of receiver Kelvin Benjamin, whose weight tends to be a popular topic even as he has looked svelte the past couple of weeks. Part of the message from Rivera during the OTAs has been that Benjamin could be on the right path toward being ready for training camp. Benjamin has declined interviews.

All these possibilities exist at receiver without factoring in versatile running back Christian McCaffrey, who is the team's first-round draft pick and should be counted on factoring into the passing attack. The Panthers are waiting for him to complete school work at Stanford before he joins the workouts.

Newton is in an observer or cheerleading role during these workouts as his surgically repaired shoulder heals. So the receivers aren't catching balls thrown by him even if they are catching his attention.

AP Football News

expert advice

Connect with us