It’s no secret Carolina’s special teams needs help. It’s been a mess. FootballOutsiders.com’s 5-category metric analysis ranks Carolina #30 overall in Special Teams Production. Expanding the metrics only makes things works. Rick Gosselin’s 22-category analysis knocks Carolina down to #31 overall. The problem is systemic, and Rivera began the overhaul process with the assignment of new special teams coordinator, Bruce Dehaven.
Coaching is part of the problem, but not clearly not the entire solution. It’s obvious every time Carolina attempts to field a punt, the personnel isn’t there. Dave Gettleman will surely look to upgrade to a more capable returner than Brenton Bersin or Philly Brown.
Two names stand-out as possible additions, former Carolina Panther Tedd Ginn, Jr. and Dwayne Harris, a former ECU Pirate.
Signs suggest that Ginn could become a cap casualty in Arizona, and with the laundry list of unrestricted free agents in Dallas, Harris could be easily poached.
When addressing Carolina’s poor special teams performance in 2014, Gettleman highlighted a philosophical difference with Ron Rivera, who accepts players only designated for special teams. Gettleman, however, noted that he prefers players who are not limited special teams alone, but who also fill a roster spot outside of teams. This will be an important consideration when adding a returner this offseason.
Who fits the bill?
If it came down to just money, Harris would be the cheaper addition. Ginn, if released, has a history with the Panthers and is established enough of a veteran to command a larger contract than Harris, who has only contributed on special teams in Dallas.
Both put up similar numbers in the return game. Each averages 11.1 y/r for their career. Harris has really come on as a kick returner in the past two seasons, averaging over 30 yds a return twice in his career. Ginn’s production punt return production peaked when he was in Carolina in 2013, while his kick return numbers have plateaued and look to be declining.
|Games||Punt Returns||Kick Returns|
Ted Ginn, Jr.
|Games||Punt Returns||Kick Returns|
The easy answer is Ginn. He had some success as a receiver when in Carolina, and at the least, he’s been incorporated into the offense throughout his career. His role was limited to special teams last season with the Arizona Cardinals, and he never found the field that much when in San Francisco. His best season as a receiver was in Carolina, where he developed some chemistry with Cam Newton. He’s never been that productive, however.
On the other hand, Harris hasn’t been incorporated into the Cowboys’ offense at all. It’s strange to be honest. Given the opportunity, he’s done nothing but perform in the preseason.
2011 Preseason Performances
5 catches, 127 yds 2 TDs vs Broncos
*He had only two targets over the next three games.
2012 Preseason Performances
2 catches 15 yards on 5 targets
4 catches, 42 yds, 1 TD
3 catches, 118 yds, 2 TDs
1 target in last preseason game
1 target in HOF game, no catches
5 catches, 52 yards on 6 targets
2 catches, 26 yards on 3 targets
1 target, no catches
1 catch, 15 yds, 5 targets
*0 targets in 3rd and 4th preseason games
In some ways, Ginn and Harris are similar. Both are dangerous return men. Both would seriously upgrade Carolina’s special teams, and both can take it to the house.
In other ways, the two are polar opposites. Ginn has been given plenty of opportunity and underwhelmed. Harris hasn’t been given much opportunity, but he’s put up some big numbers in the preseason. Ginn seems to play a little soft, getting jammed on the line a lot. He has deep threat speed, but doesn’t seem to make a lot of deep catches. He was a non-factor in the Cardinals offense, and while he had one of his better years in Carolina, he didn’t haul in but just a few catches of 20 yds. Both came early in the season, one was against Buffalo and another in a blowout versus the Giants. He did make a huge play on Monday Night Football to put Carolina ahead against New England, but it was a short pass he took to the house, not a deep ball. One play that stands out vividly was on the road in New Orleans, and Ginn was knocked down on the line of scrimmage on the 4 yard line.When Harris gets his hand on the ball, it’s always a deep pass or he turns it into a big play. He’s tough too, and does well this….(it’s not a dirty play by the way).
Who should Carolina bring in?
I’m biased on this one. I’m a ECU Pirate alum, one who has always wanted to see Dwayne Harris given a larger offensive role. Admittedly, I’m also a Ted Ginn, Jr. hater, most known for describing him as having stone hands and T-Rex arms. The measurables are there. He’s fast. He has decent size, but he doesn’t stretch the field as much as a guy with 4.3 speed should.
If you go with Ginn, you know what you're getting, a great returner and a disappointing receiver. With Harris, we’re not sure what we are getting outside a dangerous return man. He could be a solid contributor given the opportunity, or he could just solidly contribute on special teams.
By the Professor aka Tony Dunn
Follow me on Twitter @Cat_Chronicles