Opposing defenses haven’t respected Carolina’s downfield game because the Panthers don’t have a real deep-threat. Confident that the corners can keep receivers in front of them, safeties have been creeping up on the box and suffocating Carolina’s rushing attack. It’s something not lost on Carolina. Execution by the offensive line has been a problem, but Ron Rivera has attributed Carolina’s struggles at running the facing 8- and 9-man boxes.
It’s so bad, fans are clamoring to have Tedd Ginn, Jr. back. He served in that capacity, albeit inconsistently, but teams had to account for his speed. The Panthers believed they could fill this void left by his departure with Damiere Byrd, who is now on injured reserve and rookie Curtis Samuel. The problem with both players isn’t their ability, It’s Carolina’s willingness to integrate them into the game plan in a way that features them as a downfield threat. Running bubble screens to Samuel, while sending to Funchess on the deep-routes isn’t scaring defenses out of the box.
This week, it’s Carolina’s safeties who will have to be concerned about a speedster getting behind them. The Buccaneers signed DeSean Jackson to a big free agent deal to do just that. The 3-time Pro Bowler has averaged more than 17-yard per reception through his career, and while he is 30 years old, he doesn’t appear to be getting slower. Last season with the Redskins, Jackson “was clocked sprinting 22.6 mph, one of four plays he recorded the fastest time of the week. “
Sure, Jackson would have been a much more expensive acquisition than retaining Ginn would have been. He’s a much better player too. Jackson had 12 touchdowns last season and four 100+ yard receiving games in the final six games of the season. Ginn has had five 100+ yard receiving games in his career.
I know, I know, those reading this are pounding the table about the money. Jackson signed a 3-year/33.5 million-dollar contract with 20 million of it guaranteed. It is a ton of money for a 30-year old receiver who is mainly a homerun hitter. Add that Carolina believed Funchess was ready to step into a larger role, you’re probably thinking that allocating that type of money for a guy who isn’t a number one and you don’t want to be the prime number two is something to consider.
Without Ginn, Carolina tried to wing it. And while he wasn’t the most effective of deep threats, he was one that was good enough to be on the field. Jackson, however, is a big-time playmaker. If he were on the Panthers, there would be no question about players roles and how to get the most out of the guys you have. Having Jackson opposite of Benjamin wouldn’t make for the duplication of talent that Funchess does either. He’s a guy that Cam would capitalize fully on his downfield speed as well.
Jackson is in that ugly orange color and Carolina will have to worry about containing him, unfortunately. Given Matt Kalil’s poor play, Samuels inability to step into a noteworthy role as a rookie, and Carolina’s trouble stretching the field, I can only think Jackson would look so much better in black and blue.
By Tony Dunn
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