Will Fox trust rookie WRs? Not the big question Pat Y thinks it is.

I was reading the NFC South blog over at ESPN recently when this item caught my attention: Big Question: Will Fox trust rookie WRs?.  Before I even read the article, my first thought was, "Of course" and my second, on reading the first paragraph was "Here he goes again..."

What is it with national correspondents and general Fox/Panthers myths and memes?  I've heard them so many times I'm just sick of them.  "Fox won't draft a quarterback" got blown away this year.  "Fox never plays rookies" was so wrong on it's face that when confronted, sportswriters quickly switched to "Fox favors his veterans" (as if there's a coach in the NFL who doesn't) and "Fox doesn't trust rookies at ".  Then there's "Fox is too stubborn to change", which to me is just another way of saying "After all these years, he STILL won't give us intimate locker room details and insight into his strategy on game-day".  So yeah, he's stubborn in his pressers, but that's about all.

This latest idea is just plain silly on it's face.  Fox doesn't trust rookie wide receivers.  Really?  Tell that to Keary Colbert, who as a rookie started 15 games and had 47 catches for 754 yards and five touchdowns. Yes, he had a sophomore slump that lasted for three years, but as a rookie he was trusted and he delivered. The simple fact is that out of all the wide receivers taken, none have really given Fox an opportunity to trust them.  It's not like the Panthers have stockpiled day one receivers and then cut them after their first training camp.  It's that we've had more pressing first day needs at other positions, and rookie WRs are a rare breed in Carolina.

When the criticism was about Fox and Hurney not drafting Quarterbacks, all you needed to do to quell it was look at the opportunities they had to take quality Quarterbacks over their tenure.  Then you needed to look at team needs and who they eventually selected.  That kind of puts the lie to that one, right?  Or are there still people out there who think that we should have taken Kellen Clemens (Jets) or Tavaris Jackson (Vikings) instead of DeAngelo Williams?

So who are the other candidates that Pat Y is thinking of when he makes this statement?  What receivers have we taken who should have been trusted but weren't?

Well, maybe there's Walter Young, a 2003 seventh round pick out of Illinois.  You might wonder why Fox didn't trust him, or you might look at a group that included Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammad, and Ricky Proehl and conclude that a seventh rounder would be lucky to get any playing time at all on that roster.

Or there's 2004's Drew Carter, who also didn't get a lot of playing time.  He was a fifth round pick out of Ohio State who saw action in three games as a rookie, 14 his next year, and 16 in his third.  There may be an argument there, but when you look at other fifth round picks in the Fox era, it's hard to find one who did get a lot of action as a rookie.  Jeff King maybe, but that's about it.

In 2007 the Panthers took Ryne Robinson in the fourth round, which I suppose is where most star rookie wide receivers are drafted in Pat Y's world.  But Robinson wasn't drafted as a receiver, he was drafted to return punts.  And he returned 30 as a rookie.  That's a lot of trust to place in a rookie, even if he's a wide receiver in name only.

And finally, also in 2007, there's Dwayne Jarrett.  You get the feeling that this is what the article is all about. Pat Y thinks that John Fox should give Jarrett more playing time, and to defend his position he dredges up a meme about Fox not playing rookies enough (like Peppers, Foster, Gross, Manning Jr., Gamble, Colbert, Wharton, Williams, Marshall, King, Beason, Stewart, Otah, Godfrey, Brown, Martin, and Munnerlyn).  It's garbage, and as an ex-Panthers Beat writer he should know it.

There's no shortage of Dwayne Jarrett supporters out there.  He's got hands of glue, and usually makes a good catch when the ball is thrown his way.  But as a rookie, he had a big work ethic problem.  You might think a reporter who's familiar with the Panthers would remember how he got called out in the locker room by Steve Smith.  He didn't know the playbook (and people say he still doesn't), he can't get open reliably, and he doesn't fight through the jam like you need to at this level.  Maybe that's why he still wasn't trusted in his third season, much less in his first.

Jarrett caught six balls as a rookie.  In his second year he grabbed 10, and last year he got 17, including his first NFL touchdown.  He's 6'4", with big hands and a large frame. What NFL coach wouldn't WANT to believe in him?  If he was trustworthy, Fox would have trusted in him.  Unfortunately, he wasn't and may still be a question mark.  One only needs to look at the number of articles about Jarrett's time to finally step up to know that he's been a disappointment so far.

In short, using Jarrett as an example of how Fox doesn't trust rookie wide receivers is akin to using Eric Shelton as an example of how he doesn't trust rookie running backs.  Maybe the truth is closer to Fox not trusting rookies who don't have the work ethic, talent, and desire to succeed in the pros.

Now he's got Armanti Edwards, Brandon LaFell, David Gettis, Trent Guy, and Oliver Young on the roster, all rookies who want to be here on game day.  Edwards and LaFell have the inside track, and even the pundits who say things like "Fox doesn't trust rookies" are putting the lie to the statement when they project LaFell as a starter.

Fox trusts rookies if they earn it.  And for the first time in his tenure at Carolina, he has a collection at wide receiver with the talent to do so.

So let's dispense with the John Fox myths Pat.  You're better than that, and we hope to see it reflected in your future articles about Fox and the Panthers.
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