In a 2010 season devoid of any entertainment David Gettis emerged as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise pathetic season. The rookie WR caught passes from four different quarterbacks, each one more inept than his predecessor, yet managed to amass over 500 yards receiving, at an impressive 13.7 yards per reception. Conventional wisdom dictated that after battling Brandon LaFell for the #2 spot for much of 2010, Gettis ultimately did enough to win the spot paired Steve Smith, and help form the Panthers passing attach in 2011. Then two key events took place, and now as we approach the 2012 season it's hard to know what Gettis' role will be moving forward.
The plight of the young receiver is based on two things: First, the injury he sustained last year, tearing the ACL in his left knee, and secondly the emergence of Brandon LaFell. Around these parts we tend to give Cam Newton all the credit for the offense's successes, but there's no denying the fact LaFell arrived to training camp last year dedicated and ready to work. Watching him as a receiver in 2011 he looked like a new player; his notoriously hard hands were softer, he was running his routes more crisply, he displayed a better twitch and increased his speed. This was coupled with an already stellar ability to block down field. Ultimately, we saw the ability to led to so many crowing him 'The next Muhsin Muhammad'.
In order to understand how Gettis can fit into this offense we need to first understand him as a receiver, and we'll look at that more...
After the jump
Long-striding receivers tend to have a difficult time finding a place in the NFL. Randy Moss is one of the few pass-catchers who combines a freakishly long gait, with an innate ability to cut in and out of routes. So let's get this out of the way now: Don't compare David Gettis to Randy Moss.
The reason long-striders have a harder time is that their route running typically suffers because of the way they move. Sure, you'll see them beat a DB on a stutter step, but you will almost never find them beating a corner in a cut because their gait telegraphs their route running. Vincent Jackson and Plaxico Burress are both long striding receivers- but they're also much taller than Gettis, and use their size better.
If David Gettis hopes to become a serious threat at the next level he needs to improve his route running threefold. The issue is that he's a deep threat at this stage, and little more. While that seems perfect on the surface, much of that role has been supplanted by Greg Olsen, and now Gary Barnidge will take on some of that responsibility too. Each receiver in the Panthers offense had a niche carved out- Smitty can do it all, LaFell is your typical possession receiver, Olsen is your deep threat who can split the zone,and last year Naanee was used on the intermediate 7-12 yard routes.
Herein lies the problem for Gettis. While Naanee was terrible for the Panthers, he had the route running to fill that role, Gettis does not. The Panthers need a more skilled version of Naanee, one way or another. If that comes in the form of selecting someone in the draft like Justin Blackmon, so be it; that would move LaFell to the slot, where he could play a Ricky Proehl-like role. Alternatively, if the Panthers took Kendall Wright he would play in the slot and become the #3. Whichever way you slice it the problem for Gettis is being trapped in the offense as the 4th or 5th receiver at best, which makes him the 7th or 8th target after RBs and TEs are factored in.
What makes matters worse is that behind Gettis on the depth chart are four receivers who all exhibit the quick twitch needed to play that Legedu Naanee role- Pilares, Adams, Edwards and Mano all have that skill. While they may not have the hands, or ability, the fact remains that the type of receiver these players are fits the role needed better than Gettis.
I believe the coaching staff will make the right decision with Gettis, whatever it is. My gut is telling me though that when this is all said and done he's going to resemble Drew Carter, rather than Steve Smith.