Analyzing Each Carolina Panthers Receiver Currently on the Roster
With the new season comes a new-look receiving corps for the Carolina Panthers. And with 12 receivers currently on the roster, it would be understandable if you weren't well-acquainted with each and every one.
We'll take a look at these 12 receivers and discuss not only their likelihood of making the final 53-man roster, but what their impact might be on the field come the regular season.
Quarterback Cam Newton's passing yardage totals have been in decline since his rookie season, and much of that can be attributed to an aging No. 1 receiver in Steve Smith and having no other consistently productive targets at the position.
There is hope that Newton will mesh better with a group of predominantly new faces, so read on to find out how each will figure into the success of Carolina's passing game in 2014.
The 31-year-old receiver will likely play in a complementary role again with Carolina, seeing the field mainly in three-wide sets. He won't put up huge numbers for the Panthers, but he should mesh well with Newton. Avant has terrific hands, something that the receiving corps has lacked in recent years.
He has earned respect for his work ethic and should prove to be a great locker-room presence and leader for the team's many younger receivers.
By now, it's clear that rookie Benjamin, out of Florida State, will be a starting receiver for the Panthers from Day 1.
He has been impressive throughout offseason activities, and the 6'5" receiver clearly has all the physical tools needed to be a star for Carolina.
He has a knack for the spectacular catch and possesses great top-end speed, although he can be a bit slow off the line trying to get all of his 241 pounds started.
Benjamin could be Newton's top red-zone target this season and might end up with double-digit touchdowns. However, this is mainly a year for the quarterback and receiver to build chemistry and develop a relationship that could potentially flourish for years.
Standing at 6'3", 210 pounds, Bersin has the body of an NFL receiver, but he hasn't shown the physical attributes or football skills to reach the 53-man roster of the Panthers since he entered the league in 2012.
He doesn't have great speed, but he's a solid route-runner with above-average hands. He should have a safe spot on the practice squad again; the chances of him making the 53-man roster are very slim, given the talent ahead of him.
Corey "Philly" Brown was taken on by the Panthers as an undrafted free agent and has a decent shot at making the final 53-man roster but not as a receiver.
He has experience as a kick and punt returner, so that's where he'll have to prove his value. The Panthers had their first proven return man in years with Ted Ginn Jr. in 2013, but he left the team through free agency after last season, so the team is in need of a replacement.
Brown's main focus should be on ball security, as turning over the football as a returner will be his quickest way to lose a roster spot.
Grabbing a roster spot as a receiver is unlikely for Brown, as there are more experienced players ahead of him. He doesn't possess the hands or size to surpass them on the depth chart this offseason.
Clemons entered the league in 2012 with the Jacksonville Jaguars but has failed to consistently maintain a spot on the practice squad, let alone a roster spot, since.
He is a quick player and at 6'2" has the look of an NFL receiver. However, he's yet to master the route tree, and until he becomes more proficient as a football player and not just as an athlete, he will be a fringe practice-squad player.
Cotchery is another of the Panthers' key offseason acquisitions and could possibly be one of the more underrated signings of the offseason in the NFL.
He caught 10 touchdowns for Pittsburgh last season, but before that, he was on a career decline, with less than 1,000 receiving yards in the previous three seasons combined.
However, that can be attributed to playing in a very strong Pittsburgh receiving corps and in an anemic Jets passing offense.
Expect Cotchery to be a solid producer and a red-zone favorite for Newton, who will love to target the crafty 10-year veteran.
Tavarres King was claimed off waivers by the Panthers in 2013 and has been a dark-horse candidate to make an impact on the Panthers offense since.
However, he's yet to make such an impact, and that can be attributed in great part to his inconsistent catching ability. The Panthers have had far too many drops in recent years for them to take a chance on King before he proves that he's improved his hands.
With that being said, he has starter potential, so the Panthers will likely keep him on their practice squad.
At 6'4", 218 pounds, Lucas is another well-sized rookie on the Panthers roster. Despite his size, however, he is a long shot to make the 53-man roster.
He has solid hands but does not create after the catch and is slow in and out of his breaks. With some development, he could grab a roster spot in the future, but at this point, he should be focused on securing a role on the practice squad.
McNutt is a youngster with a very similar playing style to teammate Jason Avant. He has very good size at 6'3", 216 pounds, which makes for a nice catching radius considering his sticky set of mitts.
He has a great chance of making the 53-man roster if he performs consistently throughout offseason activities. The first step will be improving his intensity as a run-blocker, which holds high importance with the Panthers but has been a weakness of his in the past.
Pilares is another hardworking member of this receiving corps, but his short career has been marred with injuries as of late; he spent all of 2013 and the final half of 2012 on injured reserve.
If he can stay healthy, he's a dark horse to earn a roster spot, especially considering his potential contributions on special teams. He returned kicks for Carolina in his first two seasons out of college.
It's unlikely that both Philly Brown and Pilares will both make the 53-man roster, so keep a keen eye on the battle for return duties during the offseason. That will be the determining factor in who will survive the cuts.
During his time at Appalachian State, Presley spent time as a quarterback, running back and defensive back. With the Miami Dolphins, he settled in as a cornerback. However, he's about to change positions once again.
With the Panthers, he will switch back to the other side of the ball in an attempt to earn a spot on the receiving corps.
Presley, although undersized at 5'10", is an impressive athlete who is great with the ball in his hands and can get downfield in a hurry.
He has apparently made quite an impression on head coach Ron Rivera, so perhaps his chances of making the final roster are being underrated. I'm going to take a chance and say he will make the final roster due to his ability to contribute in special teams coverage and his potential to grow into a solid slot receiver.
Last, but not least, on the list is Tiquan Underwood, who has been brought in to compensate for the loss of the speedy Ted Ginn Jr.
Underwood has averaged 16 yards per catch over his career and is likely to stay on that pace with the Panthers, as he'll mainly see the field in three- and four-wide sets.
The former Buccaneer has a roster spot all but locked up and could be a dark-horse candidate to be a breakout producer in this offense, just as Ginn was a year ago.