Consensus opinion can be hard to find in life and in football, but there’s been widespread agreement that the Panthers receiving corps looks as weak as any in the NFL heading into the season.
Every wideout that caught a pass in Carolina last season has moved on, leaving the team to rebuild the corps with Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, Tiquan Underwood and first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin. Not much is expected from the group and the Panthers have received some criticism for constructing things that way. Quarterback Cam Newton says he and the receivers have heard that criticism and he has “no doubt” that they will answer it on the field this season.
“The elephant in the room has already been stated,” Newton said, via the Charlotte Observer. “Those guys have already accepted the challenge. You don’t have to go in there and tell those guys, ‘Hey, you’re projected the sorriest receiver [group] in the NFL.’ We already know. But with that, those guys already have that fire in their eyes. I would rather those guys be like that and for them to go out there and bust their tails like they’ve been doing. It’s kind of like a slap in–not only their face–but my face as well. The things that have been said, the reports, who cares? Because at the end of the day, we will be ready to play football, and Carolina Panthers football. Hard-nosed, and everybody’s going to have to do their job.”
While Steve Smith has long been held in high regard, Newton points out that there were questions about Carolina’s overall receiving corps heading into last season as well. Things went well enough for Newton to throw 24 touchdowns and the Panthers won the NFC South, so his confidence that everything will come together doesn’t come totally out of left field. Should things work out the same way this time around, Newton’s lack of concern about his contract will be justified because he’ll have shown he can win with whoever’s surrounding him on offense.