The name "Armanti Edwards" rings different in the ears of almost every Panther fan. You have the camp that loves him, after seeing what he did at the collegiate level. You have the camp that likes him because of what he is capable of, but doesn't like what we gave up to get him. You have the camp that doesn't like him because they don't think he has a place in the NFL transitioning to WR from small school QB, and you have the camp that hates him for several reasons topped off with him ending up being the 33rd pick in this years NFL draft.
Well this post isn't about any of his past accomplishments or failures, it's about the clear progress he has made as displayed at training camp so far. Armanti has already wowed the coaching staff, including BAMF himself, as well as made a pair of highlight reel grabs. More on this after the jump...
Armanti is turning heads for more than just shaving off his former trademark dreadlocks, although he touched on that in an interview found on Panthers.com:
"It feels lighter on my head, but it doesn't make you faster," Edwards said. "I finally got tired of it and wanted to try something new."
But the new thing on display at training camp wasn't Armanti's haircut... it was an amazing pair of hands. Check out this video of an incredible diving grab for a touchdown made at TC:
On this route, Armanti burns his man, locates and tracks the ball, and dives at just the perfect time to make the grab at the pylon. It was an amazing grab, especially for a guy who is really just starting to "get it" when it comes to playing wide receiver.
I can hear it now Panther fans:
"2nd a 5, ball at midfield, Newton under center... takes the snap, deep seven step drop, has a man open downfield and let's it fly... IT'S EDWARDS... IN THE END ZOOONNNEEEEE.... TOUCHDOWNNNNN PANTHERS!!"
It should also be pointed out that it was a good throw by Cam, not in the sense of "it was accurate and landed right in Armanti's breadbasket" ... because it didn't. More so that he threw the ball where only Armanti could catch it, or it would have landed safely out of bounds.
So what kind of coaching did Money get in the offseason? Well... he got it from one of the Panthers best:
"I got with Muhsin Muhammad the last part of the offseason," Edwards said, referring to the Panthers' all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards. "When we had our OTAs by ourselves, he was the wide receiver coach. After OTAs, I got with him.
"He tried to help me on my routes, with my route techniques. I know how hard of a worker he was. Everything we did, we were going at it real hard. I definitely picked that up and never stopped."
Armanti didn't just practice the finer points of receiving with Moose, he also solicited the help of Jason Baker to improve his ability to field punts and kickoffs.
"I just had to get more practice at it. Last year was my first time ever catching punts or kickoffs," Edwards said. "If you trust the 10 guys that are blocking, it's not frightening at all, but last year I didn't trust myself really."
So what does BAMF think of the "new" Armanti Edwards?
Armanti has done a great job. The hard thing about this year is not having OTA's and mini-camps. But apparently whatever Armanti has done this offseason in terms of his commitment is most certainly starting to show off. He's had a good couple of workouts, and that was very good to see. But the one thing you do see is from the time I had an opportunity to meet him before the work stoppage to now, he has transformed himself. He has done a heck of a job. Kudos to him. The big thing about it, too, is when you talk to him it's the group of guys that he worked out with. He spent a lot of time with his teammates, developing that bond, and then he developed himself individually. You can see the difference right now.
Very high praise from our new fearless leader. Rivera seems to like the new look quite a bit.
So ultimately when it comes to Armanti, at least for now, Haters gonna hate, but Armanti isn't concerned about that. His only concern is getting out on the field and making a difference. The man has a plan:
"Compared to last year, I'm very far along, but I still have a long ways to go to try to get out there and help this team," Edwards said. "Number one, I want to get better at wide receiver and punt returner. Number two, I want to get on the field, starting, but that's down the line. I just want to get out there and help this team in any way I can."
Armanti is a winner, it is all he has ever done, and all he knows how to do. He has taken down giants against all odds, and dealt with the haters with a smile on his face. His humility and "aw, shucks" attitude make him unassuming enough, but like a sleeping predator...
... he can strike anytime and anywhere, and when he does, get the hot sauce ready because there will be plenty of crow to go around.