The battle for the final receiver spots on the 53 man roster has been one of the hottest talking points throughout the offseason, and after Saturday’s preseason contest against the Titans, there is more to talk about than ever. One player in particular, Damiere Byrd, had a very solid performance in multiple phases of the game, leaving fans to believe he has a leg up on other roster hopefuls. But did he really do so much that he can be considered a roster lock? First, one must understand the situation as a whole.
- Kelvin Benjamin
- Devin Funchess
- Ted Ginn jr.
The aforementioned three players are guys that are universally agreed upon as having no chance at not making the team. These are our likely starters, and after Ted Ginn’s big play on Saturday, that is unlikely to change.
I’ll give you all my Star Wars figures if I’m wrong, except Boba Fett... I never risk the Fett-Man.
- Philly Brown
I would find it very hard to believe that based on his performance last season and the trust Cam Newton has in him, that his roster spot is in jeopardy, though some would say that it is. I certainly have not seen enough from the rest of the roster to suggest that someone could usurp him.
Outside Looking in
- LaRon Byrd
- Avius Capers
- Keyarris Garrett
- Miles Shuler
- Stephen Hill
These five guys at this point have slim chances of making the 53 man roster if they have any chance at all. In my opinion, with so many guys that are more proven ahead of him, Keyarris Garrett is headed for the practice squad. I would have a hard time believing that anyone in the league would pick him up and sign him to their 53 at this point. Also, you’d expect that if Stephen Hill were healthy and that the light switch had come on for him, he would have done something of note in preseason by now. That hasn’t happened.
In a dogfight for those last 2(?) spots
- Damiere Byrd
- Brenton Bersin
- Kevin Norwood
Let’s just operate under the assumption that two WR spots are actually available and these are the three guys legitimately vying for them. Then talk about the claims to the throne each possesses.
Working for him: Versatility as return-man, shifty, improved route running, strong camp and preseason performances, big play potential
Working against him: Minimal time with Cam, doesn’t fit the Panthers position size profile, no regular season experience, muffed a punt at a key moment in preseason game 1.
Working for him: Significant regular season experience, Cam trusts him, good route running, good hands, fits Panther’s size mold, Wofford Terrier, he’s Brenton Bersin.
Working against him: No game-breaking ability, minimal viability as return-man, hot and cold preseason, currently injured.
Working for him: Toughness, good route running, good hands, fits Panther’s size mold, mostly good preseason, Panthers have invested a pick in him
Working against him: No impact in 2015, doesn't return kicks or punts, minimal time with Cam.
Head to Head to Head
One preseason game does not a roster spot make. When evaluating a player, you have to look at the entire body of work instead of just considering what they have done lately. All three of these players have upsides and downsides on display in the past month, and some over time. Yes, Damiere Byrd had a great game against Tennessee, but he also botched the Panthers comeback chances by muffing a punt the week before. Brenton Bersin did not play this week, but was the most consistent receiver for the Panthers in week 1, plus he has a regular season resume the others do not. Kevin Norwood didn’t make a week 1 splash, but has been showing well in practice, and displayed toughness that earned him praise by Rivera after the 2nd preseason game, while also scoring a touchdown on a great route.
The result is that this battle is going to come down to the wire, and the Panthers are going to have to cut someone they don’t want to and hope they can sign them to the practice squad. I do believe that Damiere Byrd has greatly improved his chances as of Saturday, and the fact that he is a receiver more in the speed mold that can return punts helps him as well. At a base level, Norwood and Bersin are similar receivers.
I think the Panthers want to see Stephen Hill succeed, but right now that is not happening. They need a second deep threat, and while they’d like the size Hill brings, Byrd has been flat out better. I would give him a roster spot right now.
The battle between Norwood and Bersin is the more interesting one, but I think familiarity will win in the end, and Bersin will get a jersey yet again based on a longer resume.