Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Carolina's new receivers not such a dropoff
By David Newton
The names may have changed, but the 2013 statistics aren't dramatically different when it comes to the new and old wide receiving corps of the Carolina Panthers.
Gone are Steve Smith (Baltimore), Brandon LaFell (New England) and Ted Ginn Jr. (Arizona).
Replacing them are free agents Jerricho Cotchery (Pittsburgh), Jason Avant (Philadelphia) and Tiquan Underwood (Tampa Bay) -- and a draft pick or two to be named later.
When you compare what the replacements did this past season versus the old regime, it's not enough to lose sleep over.
In overall age (based on the start of next season), Carolina got slightly younger with the average of the newcomers 30.0 compared to 30.3 of those they replaced. Smith, who will be 35 before the season, is the primary reason.
In terms of 2013 receptions, the old regime held a 149 to 108 advantage. Last year's receivers held a 1,928 to 1,489 edge in receiving yards.
The new guys held a 16 to 14 advantage in touchdown catches.
It's not a wash, but it's not worth panicking over.
And overall price tag of the newcomers is considerably lower, which will help with the salary cap down the road.
Coach Ron Rivera recently said at the NFL owners meeting in Orlando, Fla., that Carolina needed to replace about 10 catches a game based on last season's statistics. The Panthers aren't far from that, although Cotchery and Avant are only short-term solutions.
Underwood is a wild card. He had 24 catches this past season, which is 22 more than Ginn had at San Francisco the year before coming to Carolina.
Ginn saw a 94.4 percent increase in production in 2013. If Underwood can double his that's a win for the new regime.
The other wild card is the draft. Rivera said he's looking for a dynamic receiver. Although none are as dynamic as the top two -- Clemson's Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M's Mike Evans -- who will be gone way before Carolina picks at No. 28, there's a deep and talented crop.
There are enough receivers that if Carolina takes one or two in the first three rounds, those players can be as much or more of a factor as last year's fourth wide receiver, Domenik Hixon.
Hixon, now with Chicago, had only seven catches for 55 yards and one touchdown last season. While that one touchdown was huge -- the game-winner against New Orleans in the 15th game -- it can be easily replace.
There's more long-term upside for a first- or second-round selection than Ginn, last season's No. 3 receiver.
Throw in Marvin McNutt and Tavarres King, two young players management is high on, and the situation isn't nearly as bad as it appeared a few weeks ago.
Time will tell.
Here's a closer look at what the Panthers have lost versus what they have gained: