This is the third in a series on the Carolina Panthers biggest training camp questions of 2012.
As I sit in the lobby of my hotel in Spartanburg waiting for my room to be ready I begin to ponder what I'll see in just under six hours. Thus far we've looked at the potential battle at kicker, and the competition at the safety position which could see incumbent Sherrod Martin unseated.
This time last week the WR position was a fairly simple equation. Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and David Gettis were all locks, but it remained to be seen what would happen with the forth WR spot. Granted, it wasn't the most compelling battle, but a curiosity nonetheless.
Then Marty Hurney worked the phones.
Now with Louis Murphy in the fold, the back-end of the WR situation has been sorted. Kealoha Pilares and Joe Adams will get spots for special teams, while the Panthers focus primarily on four pass-catching receivers. The battle now moves to that third receiver spot where David Gettis is fighting injury, and there's a new kid on the block.
More after the jump
David Gettis had a most impressive rookie campaign where he fought through lackluster QB play, and terrible circumstances to put forth a 500 yard season. Expectations were high, and there was an almost inevitability towards Gettis claiming the #2 receiver spot heading into the 2011 season. Fate took a turn as he tore his ACL early in camp, and his position on the team was further compounded by Brandon LaFell breaking out. The coaching staff now have the utmost confidence in the 3rd year receiver from LSU to be their started, and this week Ryan Kalil told Adam Schein of Sirius Radio that he expects LaFell to be the player who most surprises non-Panthers fans this year.
We know what David Gettis brings to the table. He has a rare combination of size and speed that NFL teams crave, but he's not a complete receiver. Gettis' stride doesn't promote quick twitch route running, and he's not able to run the full tree yet. Also, despite having that dominant 6'3", 220lb frame, we didn't see him truly manhandle smaller defensive backs the way you'd expect. At this stage he's really only entering his second season though, and that has to be remembered as we look at expectations.
As bad as the QB situation was in Carolina during the 2010 season, out west Louis Murphy was contending with an equally terrible situation. Supported by a cadre of poor players like Jamarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski, and Jason Campbell, he also managed to transcend the lack of quality throwing him the ball and put up two solid seasons, before struggling with injury in early 2011.
Louis Murphy is slightly smaller than Gettis, but plays a little tougher. He's fierce over the middle, and a willing run blocker. His issue is his hands, which at times can be suspect. With the exception of stuggling with the dropsies from time to time, he's a true NFL slot receiver. We can hope that Fred Graves can work on his hands the same way he did with LaFell, who took mammoth leaps from stone-handed, to reliable from his first to second season.
Predicting the 3WR spot in insanely difficult. Gettis has really been stuck in the lurch by not being able to participate with the team over the last year. From an academic standpoint he'll understand the offense, but on-field he has as much experience as Louis Murphy. Whether it was Jacoby Jones during free agency, or Louis Murphy now-- it's clear the Carolina Panthers were looking for a talent upgrade in that third WR spot. When it's all said and done I feel that the more experienced, more polished Louis Murphy will win the starting job leading to a depth chart of Smith/LaFell/Murphy/Gettis/Pilares/Adams at wide receiver. Regardless of what happens with the position battle the fans win, because this is far and away the best WR depth the Panthers have had in a long time.