Ted Ginn Jr. has an opportunity to live up to his pre-draft billing.
While Ted Ginn Jr. has been the epitome of a draft bust, one can hope that his career will be resurrected with Cam Newton throwing him passes.
On paper, it's definitely a long shot. Ginn serves as a symbol of the Miami Dolphins' drafting ineptitude, as the team selected him with the ninth pick in the 2007 NFL draft. After playing for the franchise for just three seasons, the Dolphins decided to cut their losses and moved on from Ginn.
Ginn has only caught 33 passes over the course of the last three seasons as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. During his time with the defending NFC champions, Ginn was used almost exclusively as a returner.
While the Carolina Panthers could use an explosive returner based upon last season's results in that area, it would be optimal if Ginn could make a difference in the passing game.
The Panthers' notable receivers are Ginn, Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Kealoha Pilares, Joe Adams, David Gettis, Armanti Edwards and Domenik Hixon. While Smith is Carolina's all-time leading receiver, it's hard to get excited about the Panthers wideouts.
Prior to the draft, most pundits expected the Panthers to address the wide receiver position with one of their selections in the middle rounds. Rookie general manager David Gettleman decided against such a strategy, which in turn has left the Panthers with one of the league's most desperate receiving corps.
In the next year, Gettleman will look to improve the options at the position, but that won't help the Panthers in the upcoming season. Ginn could make a difference, which only adds to the pressure he must feel.
The Panthers' lack of depth at wide receiver plays in Ginn's favor, as he could see significant playing time in the slot if he earns it during practice. If Ginn fails to break through as a receiver in Carolina, it won't be because he didn't have the opportunities.
Truthfully, Ginn must be pinching himself in disbelief that he has found such a promising home. Outside of Smith, Carolina doesn't have another consistent receiver who can stretch the field, which is favorable for Ginn.
At the NFL combine in 2007, Ginn ran a 4.28 40-yard dash, which speaks to the Ohio State product's electrifying speed. While Ginn might have slowed down slightly throughout his time in the league, he still has the foot speed to change a game with one explosive play.
Due to his speed, Ginn will be utilized on deep passes and on quick hits and screens. Each makes sense, as Ginn's speed makes him a home run threat down the field. Also, Ginn's quickness and evasiveness can be a nightmare for opposing defenses once he is in the open field.
Even if the Panthers don't target Ginn when he's on the field, opposing defenses will have to respect his speed, which will soften up the coverage for Newton's other targets. Without touching the ball, Ginn has the potential to make the offense more effective.
If he can impress the coaching staff, he could earn himself the right to make big plays on Sundays.
According to Jonathan Jones of the CharlotteObserver.com, head coach Ron Rivera said the following about Ginn at OTAs:
You hear things from the outside about players. But then when you see him for yourself, and you sit there and you go, ‘Wow.’ Watching Ted’s speed, his quickness, his route-running – and he’s catching everything right now. So we’re real excited about that, and his potential as far as a return man.
How many passes will Ted Ginn Jr. catch this season?
Rivera's summary of Ginn certainly isn't surprising, as the wideout's speed made him a top-10 pick. Although Rivera is gushing here, Ginn still has a long road ahead of him.
If everything goes perfectly, Ginn could be one of the NFL's biggest surprises once the season rolls around in September.
And if everything doesn't go according to plan, the slack will fall to the unconquerable Steve Smith. While Panther nation will never doubt Smith's ability, he wouldn't mind if Ginn and Newton connected on a few passes every week.
The plan is simple for Ginn. Study the playbook relentlessly to ensure that he completely understands the Panthers' offensive scheme.
The first step is to learn the offensive framework, which could set him apart from the Panthers' other receivers who will be competing for playing time in the slot.