The receivers situation in Carolina is looking bleak. Somehow we keep winning but one has to wonder how far we can go against stiffer competition. Let's take a look at the good and the bad so far after the tempestuous win in Tampa Bay.
Let's get it out of the way. Brenton Bersin made 4 catches for a grand total of 54 yards. That brings his season total to 67 on five receptions through four weeks. So why is this significant? Well for starters that makes him the Panthers leading receiver during the Tampa Bay game last Sunday. Also notable, he has only been targeted 5 times all season. That's an 83 (roughly) percent completion percentage. The sole drop is arguable given that it involved a collision with Ted Ginn that interfered with the play. Here's the deal with Bersin, he won't be putting up spectacular stats, he won't be vying for Pro Bowl representation but with a WR group that is dismal at best right now, he has been a ray of light. A dependable receiver that studies hard, knows where to be and catches what's thrown at him, which is more than we can say for Philly Brown and Ted Ginn right now.
Ted Ginn Jr:
Another unexpected turn from the preseason, Ted Ginn has the most receiving TDs on the team. Ted Ginn Jr...and none of them are on special teams. Let it sink in. I love Teddy G as a player, he's always been a fan favorite of mine, but leading the team? Ginn has three, Olsen has two. Of course this is nothing compared to Cam who has seven thus far but that's because Cam Newton IS this offense, but we'll get to that later. On Sunday, Ginn broke free for a total of 18 yards and two TDs. What does that say? It says that he didn't do anything special Sunday, but he was in the right place at the right time. For now, given the position the offense finds itself. I'll take that. Run your route, get open and let Newton deliver the laser when it's available. Oh yeah one more thing, CATCH THE BALL.
Ed Dickson is a role player. Luckily it's a role he's comfortable with and is playing well of late. Olsen is our main target at TE, hell he's our number one WR right now. Dickson keeps defenses honest and provides support. In that position it's easy to become complacent. On a killer heads up play where Jonathan Stewart nearly completed the second turnover of the afternoon, Dickson, who was running downfield to provide a block, snatched the fumble mid-air and rumbled in for a touchdown. Now according to Newton if he can 'Take the car out of neutral' when running he'll another weapon in our arsenal. All in all, great job by Dickson, showing that sometimes dumb luck and the ability to capitalize on the situation is all it takes.
What does it say that the WR corps we entered the season pinning our hopes on have been almost absent from meaningful plays this season, yet somehow Cam has managed to make plays that count with whatever we send him on the field with?
3 receptions on 13 targets for a total of 38 yards. That's all we know about Devin Funchess. He hasn't played enough to provide any meaningful evaluation time. He made one huge catch against mediocre Saints defense and a handful of drops, including one touchdown against the Bucs last Sunday. I had to think hard to try and remember 13 times Funchess was in the frame when a play unfolded, let alone individual targets. Proehl is widely regarded as a superior wide receivers coach but so far Devin Funchess and apparent running mate Kevin Norwood are completely MIA in the first quarter of this season.
Never an unkind word shall be uttered about Thor/Dexter as long as he wears the black and blue. He does his job week in and week out like the pro he truly is. One of the most reliable and productive Panthers in recent history, Greg is always a weapon. The problem is, we never know which one he's going to be. Depending on the week Greg could spend every play tying up defenders to free our shaky offense for a big play or he can single handedly become the offense, catching everything Cam throws his way and nothing prior to the game appears to shine any light on which of these he's going to be prior to game time.
Much like the other Philly in the NFL, what appeared to be a stack of unreleased talent has failed to produce anything worth writing home about. It doesn't matter what your name is if no one ever calls from the announcer's booth. Where is Brown at? 6 receptions for 73 yards. Sound familiar? This could the stat line for any receiver on this team whose name isn't Greg Olsen.
So where does this leave us? Surprisingly, 4 - 0 with a solid chance at 5 - 0. The credit goes in its entirety to Cam Newton's ability to make something out of absolutely nothing. Even more, he creates Ws. How? No one knows. I defy anyone to tell me how we got 4 TDs with no receiver breaking 50 yards. Cam found his man, but more importantly, he knew when NOT to throw the ball, when to slide and when to let his defense get it done. Which is exactly what they did. Josh Norman is having a career year so far, he is by and far the most dynamic member of this secondary and one of the most talented CBs in the game right now. However, the Panthers defense, banged up beyond reason and missing their leader to an extended concussion protocol deserves massive respect for keeping the ball out of Jameis Winston's hands.
We get a bye week that gives a lot of starters the chance to find their way back to the line up. Early reports are that Luke and Cotchery will be ready to go for week 5 in Seattle. It's looking like they're going to be needed as Carolina hasn't dominated anybody in the first half yet and Seattle is a dangerous team to let get an early lead. Also Rivera has taken to sitting Harper during the second half of games, now he can just start that process prior to kickoff we have a real chance at making some noise in the NFC in October. The big question is, will we see Kevin Norwood in action against his old team? Will Devin Funchess ever make an impact? Does Philly Brown still play for Carolina? Week 6 will answer some if not all of these.