The Panthers gave Damiere Byrd a solid look last year. It wasn't as if there was an absence of opportunity either, as Carolina scrambled to field a formidable group of wideouts. Byrd, however, was small, inexperienced, and had a few miscues in the preseason. The physicality of the NFL also seemed to be a big challenge for the undrafted rookie. He didn't make a bad impression, though. He showed off his killer speed, played aggressive and confident, and seemed willing to leave it all out on the field. He looked cool under pressure, even when the ball bounced the wrong way.
Damiere Byrd told me he's gained 8 or 9 pounds from last year at this time. Says it hasn't slowed him down.— Black & Blue Review (@BlackBlueReview) May 14, 2016
A year later and eight pounds heavier, Byrd is working hard to show the Panthers he can play at the NFL level. He’s got elite speed and has an explosiveness that can translate into yards after the catch. Here’s Ron Rivera after seeing Byrd for the first time since last season:
The problem going forward for Byrd is that the position is oddly crowded for what was a real weakness just a year ago. It’s crowded too by many players and guys who either have Byrd’s speed or have tremendous size.
Carolina likes the big boys. Benjamin and Funchess are locks, and Stephen Hill is a favorite of wide receiver coach Ricky Proehl. Keyarris Garrett is another big boy who is favored by many to get an opportunity this year.
For Byrd, it's the guys who have speed and more experience who are his real competition. Ted Ginn may not have greatest of hands, but he has great chemistry with Cam Newton and flourished while in Carolina. Ginn also established himself as an on-the-field leader last season in Kelvin Benjamin's absence. Philly Brown hasn’t blown anyone away, but he has contributed. He’s made some big plays in big moments at times when he has been asked to do a lot of things he may not have been totally ready for. Brown too was an undrafted guy.
It’s hard to believe that both Brown and Byrd can make this team with Ginn so entrenched at this point. If Byrd can show more physicality and consistent hands in training camp, it may not be impossible to nudge Brown to the bubble, or at least be ready to fill in for Ginn in the event of injury.
One thing is for sure, C3 will be doing some Byrd watching over the next couple months. We'd like to hear your take on Byrd, Brown, and the roster bubble as well. Comment below.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
Follow him on Twitter @Cat_Chronicles