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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
What looked like a position of strength for the Carolina Panthers at the start of training camp suddenly has turned into a huge question mark.
The Panthers suddenly are scrambling for wide receivers, signing Samie Parker on Tuesday. The amazing thing is Parker, who was cut Monday by Denver, actually has a chance to start -- or at least play a significant role -- on opening day. That's not a tribute to Parker, who did have some bright moments in his Kansas City days and can return punts.
Instead, it's an illustration of the plight the Panthers are in at wide receiver. Steve Smith, the team's best receiver, is suspended for the first two regular-season games after a training camp fight with Ken Lucas.
D.J. Hackett, who was signed as a free agent and was supposed to contend for a starting job, has missed most of the preseason with a toe injury. Ryne Robinson, who the Panthers were hoping could be their fifth receiver and primary return man, has been out with a knee injury. It's not known yet if Hackett or Robinson will be healthy in time for the start of the regular season, and Parker's arrival is a sign they may not. The Panthers also lost Jason Carter, who had shown promise as a receiver and return man, to a season-ending knee injury.
That leaves Muhsin Muhammad, Dwayne Jarrett and, now, Parker. Veteran Travis Taylor and a handful of young receivers are on the roster, but they probably won't stick.
Unless Hackett suddenly makes a miraculous recovery, it's looking like Muhammad and Jarrett will be the starters when the Panthers open their season at San Diego. Muhammad's a solid veteran, who can fill a big role in the possession game.
But the Panthers are going to need Jarrett, who had only six catches in a disappointing rookie season to take a huge step forward. Jarrett's physical talent never has been in doubt, but teammates and coaches questioned his work ethic as a rookie. All indications are Jarrett has been working much harder at mentally preparing this year.
The Panthers entered camp hoping Jarrett could be the fourth receiver. For the first two weeks of the regular season, they probably will need him to be a starter.