The organization's primary failing in 2010 was the passing offense, we all know that, but how much are the WRs to blame for the ineffectiveness of the passing game? The Carolina Panthers entered 2011 with a WR corps with an average of just 2.87 years per players- the youngest group in the NFL. Rookies Brandon LaFell and David Gettis were thrust in the fire early forcing to learn and adapt on the fly, meanwhile the typically stalwart veteran Steve Smith was clearly becoming weary of the organization's inabilities in the passing game and let his emotions get the better of him.
This position was truly a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario, as the players floundered between showing extreme promise and complete mediocrity. That being said, it's undeniable that there are some positives to pull out of the WR group as they move forward to 2011.
More after the jump...
2010 Statistics: 46 receptions, 554 yards, 2 TD
It was an extremely frustrating season for the Panthers' mercurial WR; lets be honest, it's been a trying few years. Once on pace for a hall of fame type career, lately Smith's numbers have been derailed by the endemic poor QB play that typified the Carolina Panthers for a significant piece of John Fox's tenure.
At the same time, Smith didn't do himself any favors in 2010. He dropped passes that were catch-able, looked slow off the line, his YAC ability was much less potent and this was capped off with locker room struggles and publicly calling out QB Jimmy Clausen. All in all, it was just a bad year for Steve Smith.
Letter grade: C
2010 Statistics: 37 receptions, 504 yards, 3 TD
The Carolina Panthers took a flier on two players who had promising abitliies, but never really lived up to their billing in college. These players were David Gettis and Greg Hardy, and both exceeded any wildest expectation. There was a time where Gettis wasn't a lock to even make the 53, but he kept learning, kept training and ultimately leapfrogged over almost the entire depth chart to become a starter. With a combination of long stride, good body control, and a deadly double move David Gettis was one of the few offensive bright spots for the Panthers in 2010.
There are still things he needs to work on as a player. His route running needs to be crisper and his hands need to improve, but ultimately Gettis has proven that he belongs in the NFL and will be a staple for years to come. The only knock on him is that he did slow up significantly in the latter part of the season- though this is a fairly common issue for rookies who aren't fully prepared for the demands of the NFL.
Letter grade: A-
2010 Statistics: 38 receptions, 468 yards, 1 TD
The Panthers' 3rd round pick entered the season with much more of a resume than the aforementioned Gettis, but this did not translate to early success. In fact, for much of the first half of the season Brandon LaFell struggled with inconsistent hands, uneven speed and his route running needed a lot of work. The Panthers simply didn't have the 'oomph' with LaFell at WR instead of the speedier Gettis.
A season is 16 games though, not 8... and it seemed that the NFL game started to click for getting from the bye onwards. A 6 reception, 91 yard game against San Francisco, and his season closing 4 rec, 63 yard game against Atlanta showed that he's developing the chops needed to be an effective NFL WR. The future is still bright for Buck (or Sticks, whichever you prefer).
Letter grade: B+
2010 Statistics: 7 receptions, 124 yards
The concept behind bringing in David Clowney was sound: get a burner who can be a deep threat while Steve Smith finds his legs. The execution, however, was different story entirely. Clowney never looked like he belonged in the Panthers offense, his route running was non existent, he never seemed to beat his man and while we saw a few good moments they were more than outweighed by snaps he was on the field and had no effect. He did, however, have an effective game against Atlanta at the end of the season so I'm willing to think the QB situation played a heavy role.
Letter grade: C-
2010 Statistics: 2 receptions, 40 yards
Without hyperbole: Dwayne Jarrett could be the most disappointing player in the history of this Carolina Panthers.
Letter grade: F
2010 Statistics: 0 receptions, 0 yards
AE needs to be included in this evaluation because he did take snaps at WR during the season. Edwards is not an NFL receiver yet, and will need far more seasoning if he can contribute. In one of the few plays we saw him he bobbled a poorly thrown pass which resulted in an interception. Sure, it was equally on the QB, but Edwards played a role too. The 5 yard slant will need to be his bread and butter out of the slot, and he showed that he's just not ready to be a receiver yet.
This isn't an indictment on his future, but really it's hard to give him another grade.
Letter grade: F
The Carolina Panthers receivers do have some bright spots heading into 2011 in both David Gettis and Brandon LaFell, but in order for this group to really take a step ahead they will need to find production from Steve Smith (assuming he's still a Panther). 5th round rookie Kealoha Pilares will help elevate the lack of production out of the slot, but without Smith this group will be one of the weakest in the NFL unless Gettis and LaFell maturate quickly.
Overall letter grade: B-