When asked who would be getting the start at wide receiver this Sunday with a healthy Philly Brown back, Ron Rivera simply stated, "It's a surprise."
Rivera may be torn between the two receivers, but he may also not want to give the Saints any hints for game planning. Both, however, will likely see their share of playing time in New Orleans this week.
Philly Brown practiced in full Wednesday for the first time since sustaining a shoulder injury that sidelined him two weeks. Brown has started the first 8 games, while Devin Funchess had trouble cracking the rotation. His role increased substantially in Brown's absence.
Funchess has done well with his time, recording 6 catches, 83 yards, and a touchdown the last two weeks. He's been picking up steam over the last month with 11 catches, 195 yards, and two touchdowns. While these aren't huge numbers, it's considerable production compared to Philly Brown's 17 catches, 233 yards, and three touchdowns over the first eight weeks. His instincts have gotten better as well. Last week against Dallas, Funchess made a catch near the sideline a few yards short of the first down with a defender closing in. Funchess was able to make a slight spin and dive while falling out of bounds to get the first down. These are things you like to see from a rookie receiver, and things fans hadn't seen in the first half of the season. His size and ability to go get the ball seem to compliment Ted Ginn Jr on the opposite side. It also gives you another mismatch along with 6'5" Greg Olsen in the red zone which is pivotal.
Philly Brown has played much better than most expected coming off a disastrous pre-season performance. He's also been making some good catches, mainly deep down the field where he can use his speed. The Panthers had success using him early on running the ball and reversing field, but defenses caught on a few weeks after and we have gone away from that for the most part. In the end, if Funchess keeps this up, I see Philly being a solid number three or four receiver rotating in and getting quality snaps.
Right now I think you just have to go with who has the hot hand(s) and that's Devin 'Fun Fun' Funchess. You traded up in the draft to get him for this reason. He's been doing "Kelvinesque" things and improving each week. Let him continue to build towards that.
The better he gets going towards January, the more 'Fun Fun' the Panthers could be having.
By Tripp Morgan
Follow him on Twitter @TrippMorgan6