Cam Newton managed to revitalize the Carolina Panthers franchise in only his rookie year, throwing for 4,051 yards and combining for 35 touchdowns in 2011. However, the team still needs plenty of help, and they addressed one of their needs by drafting Joe Adams in Round 4 of the 2012 NFL draft.
Adams saw an increase in production each season playing for Arkansas, finishing his senior season with 54 catches for 652 yards and three scores. At 5'11", he brings his ability as a speedy slot receiver to help Newton in the passing game.
Steve Smith needs some backup in the receiving corps. He was targeted 129 times last year, and although he’ll still be Newton’s go-to guy, Adams can take some pressure off.
Having said that, the passing game isn’t where he’ll make the most impact.
If you watched any of the Razorbacks games from 2011, you likely saw Adams blowing opponents away on punt returns. He has unbelievable skills in this facet of the game, racking up 321 yards on 33 returns for a remarkable four touchdowns as a senior.
Adams had, arguably, the play of the year at home against Tennessee. He took a punt return at his own 39-yard line and managed to fend off nearly seven Volunteers before he wound up with the entire special teams unit chasing him into the end zone.
Armanti Edwards handled punt return duties for the Panthers last year. His stat line wasn’t much to write home about at 32 returns for 176 yards, an average of 5.5 per return. Adams averaged nearly 10 yards per return as a senior. He’ll be a huge upgrade for Carolina.
Legadu Naanee left for Miami, so he opens up some room in the passing game for someone else to step in. David Gettis will be returning from injury, and Carolina has recently signed several other free-agent wide receivers. Expect Adams to start from Week 1 as the punt return specialist, but he’ll have to work to see a fair amount of action in the receiving game.
Edwards has never had a play go for more than 17 yards as a pro. Adams has the big-play ability to exceed those low expectations. Expect a minimum of one or two touchdowns returns from him.