The Carolina Panthers are coming into the 2015 season with great momentum with back-to-back division championships under their belt. This off-season has been very successful in keeping the core together in signing quarterback Cam Newton and linebacker Thomas Davis to contract extensions. The best part of the off-season for me was the front office being proactive in addressing our weaknesses and providing Cam Newton with more weapons to play with.
The wide receiver position is the deepest it has been in a while with 2nd year wide out Kelvin Benjamin, rookie Devin Funchess, Corey Brown, Ted Ginn Jr, and Jerricho Cotchery. These are the guys that will definitely be on the team in 2015, but there are a few other guys that are making a big push to make this roster Jarrett Boykin, and a couple of unknowns that are making a big impression in camp Mike Brown and undrafted free agent Damiere Byrd.
This depth makes me smile and dream about what Cam can do with this amount of weapons. I’m glad I don’t have to make these roster decisions. Coach Ron Rivera has come out and said we might end up keeping seven wide receivers instead of the traditional five because of the talent may have on the roster right now. Let’s take a look at the group I call the Queen City skyscrapers and how they will impact the Carolina Panthers in 2015!
Kelvin Benjamin had an awesome rookie season in 2014, playing in all 16 games with 1,008 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He became a match of nightmare for defenses all over the field, but especially in the red zone with his size at 6’5 245. He made some jaw-dropping catches as well, showing that we made the right choice in drafting him 28 overall out of Florida State. He looks like he is going to be the leader of the receiving core for many years to come. The one thing he must work on is making the easier catches last year he had some key drops that would’ve kept drives going and even scored touchdowns, but I expect him to work on that and be as good or better than he was in his rookie season.
Devin Funchess (6’4 225)
The Panthers drafted Funchess 41st overall in this year’s draft he was a standout at Michigan! The Panthers are making it very clear that they want tall targets for Cam Newton to throw to. A good thing because when Newton is off, he tends to throw high and now with the size of our receivers they might be able to snag more of those high throws. Funchess is 6’4 225 paired with Benjamin is going to be a matchup nightmare in the red zone because all Cam Newton has to do is throw a jump ball and our guys will have a great chance to catch it!
At Michigan he spent the majority of his time at the tight end position. In his career, he had 1,715 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns pretty good considering the Michigan football program hasn’t won in recent history. Although, he is a rookie and unproven at the NFL level you can’t teach size I can’t wait to see him and Benjamin create havoc on NFL defenses opening up big plays for our other playmakers on the field.
Corey Brown (5’11 185 Lbs)
The Panthers found themselves a diamond in the rough when they signed Corey Brown; formally known as Philly Brown as an undrafted free agent before the 2014 season. He adds an element of speed to this offense and a deep threat taking advantage of the defense having to account for his teammates on every play. He also was a great asset on special teams in 2014 as the primary kick returner, but with Ted Ginn JR back in the fold as the returner I think he will be a bigger part of the offense like he was at the tail end of last season.
He started three games in 2014 he had 21 catches for 296 yards and two touchdowns. He also can have an impact in trick plays or as a rusher last season he had eight rushes for 95 yards. He is a dynamic player and can change the game in so many different ways I’m really excited to see how we incorporate him into the offense more in 2015.
Ted Ginn Jr (5’11 185 Lbs)
It’s a happy homecoming for Ted Ginn Jr and the Panthers as he was re-signed this off-season. He will come in and solidify a kicking game that was ranked 24th in the NFL last year. He is another speedster that can affect the game in many ways. He is coming back to an offense that he excelled in 2013 where he had 36 receptions for 556 yards and five touchdowns in an offense that wasn’t as dynamic as I feel the 2015 version will be! Ginn is back in the place where he felt most comfortable and played the best; I am very happy he is a panther again and I will feel less nervous when it comes to special teams!
Jerricho Cotchery (6’1 205)
Cotchery is entering his second year with the Panthers he is the grizzled veteran of the group at age 33; he is entering his 12th year as an NFL wide receiver. His stats from 2014 don’t jump off the page with 48 receptions for 580 yards and one touchdown. However, he is still a formidable wide receiver and is a great mentor for the younger guys to learn from. Also, Cam Newton used him as a safety blanket when things seemed to be closing around him. He is perfect for this team because there are so many young stars and he can show them the right way on and off the field.
Jarrett Boykin (6’2 217 Lbs)
Boykin is one of the wide receivers fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster. He is a local boy he went to high school at Butler in Charlotte North Carolina! It would definitely be a cool story if he played for his local team while trying to make himself a household name in the NFL. He has made a good impression on the coach is thus far in camp making all the plays. He also has pretty good speed and could be used on special teams to help solidify a weak point in 2014.
He will have to play well in the preseason games to stand out from the other guys, but has made a good impression so far and that’s all he can do. The funny thing is he was signed in the off-season for depth reasons and this position now might be the deepest of any part of the roster.
Mike Brown (5’10 200 Lbs)
Brown is another guy that is fighting for a spot on this roster. His best year was 2013 when he played with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He had 32 receptions for 446 yards and two touchdowns a pretty good year for anyone in a Jacksonville uniform. However, He is probably a long shot to make this team, but he is also making a great impression on the coaches and who knows he might dominate in the preseason and force the coaches to put them on this team.
Damiere Byrd 5’9 173 Lbs
Byrd is the last of the guys fighting for a spot on this roster he is an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina and I think he has the best chance out of the last three players to make the roster because of his pure speed. He ran a 4.28 40 time and the coaches have been impressed with the plays he’s made and his hands which are important for wide receivers.
Ultimately, you can’t teach speed and I believe he can be used in many different situations like trick plays, special-teams and has a deep threat. Like the other two he will have to prove himself in the preseason games and it will be fun to see who comes out on top in this battle I don’t think the team can lose no matter what choice we make.
This receiving core has a chance to be deadly with its mix of size and speed. In addition to the talent we have on the outside paired with a dual threat quarterback and a stable of running backs it could be the best offense in the NFL. One thing is for sure it’s going to watch and I’m expecting a lot of touchdowns in 2015!!! Go Panthers!!!