Who Do the Carolina Panthers Have in Jerricho Cotchery?

Who Do the Carolina Panthers Have?

Part 1: Jerricho Cotchery
Much to do has been made of who the Panthers lost this offseason.  The exodus of Panther staples, such as Steve Smith, Jordan Gross, and Captain Munnerlyn has left fans uncertain. The uncertainty of the unknown has caused fans to flail for something to help them get their bearings, particularly on the offensive side of the roster. 

This is part one of a series meant to explore Carolina’s unknown, well less known anyway.  The series will first focus on the Panthers’ unknown receiver core because that has been the greatest cause of fan angst. Followed by an analysis of offensive additions, we’ll look at new, but more familiar, defensive players, such as Roman Harper, Antoine Casson, and Thomas Decoud. Fans need to know who we have to understand what we need.  The series will conclude with a who we added group of articles, producing the final product of: 

Who the Panthers have, who did they add, and what do they got? Let’s look at some of those mysterious wide receivers first!

Jerricho Cotchery: Panther fans, welcome back a familiar star! The
“Backyard Baller” and NC State college standout shined alongside Phillip Rivers between 2000 and 2003.  Amassing 200 catches for a whopping 3,119 yds, Cotchery ranks 2nd all-time in Wolfpack history only to Tory Holt. 

Year Tm Pos Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng Y/G
2006 NYJ WR 82 961 11.7 6 71 60.1
2007 NYJ WR 82 1130 13.8 2 50 75.3
2008 NYJ WR 71 858 12.1 5 56 53.6

Cotchery’s senior season was insane, seven 110+ yd games and one 200+ yd game.  Look at these crazy stats, and it’s a wonder why we should even have to feature Cotchery in this series. 

Rk Date School Opponent Rec Yds Avg TD
1 2003-08-30 North Carolina State Western Carolina W 5 62 12.4 1
2 2003-09-06 North Carolina State Wake Forest L 9 173 19.2 1
3 2003-09-13 North Carolina State Ohio State L 4 44 11.0 2
4 2003-09-20 North Carolina State Texas Tech W 3 56 18.7 0
5 2003-09-27 North Carolina State North Carolina W 9 217 24.1 1
6 2003-10-04 North Carolina State Georgia Tech L 5 71 14.2 1
7 2003-10-11 North Carolina State Connecticut W 4 55 13.8 0
8 2003-10-16 North Carolina State Clemson W 2 55 27.5 0
9 2003-10-25 North Carolina State Duke W 9 117 13.0 0
10 2003-11-01 North Carolina State Virginia W 7 111 15.9 1
11 2003-11-15 North Carolina State Florida State L 10 135 13.5 2
12 2003-11-22 North Carolina State Maryland L 6 102 17.0 0
13 2003-12-22 North Carolina State Kansas W 13 171 13.2 1
13 Games 86 1369 15.9 10

Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table
Generated 5/3/2014.

Drafted by the NY Jets in 2004, Cotchery wore green and white with multiple QBs for multiple coaches. Breaking out in 2007 with 1,130 yds and 2 TDs under an intricate Mangini offense scheme, Cotchery became the featured receiver in NY.  Although he didn’t find the end-zone too often, Cotchery hauled in 82 catches, proving himself a integral part of Mangini’s modest success. The late season collapse of 2008 was enough to push out Mangini, who finished 9-7 after leading the division early.

As the “Rex Ryan Sanchez” era commenced, Cotchery’s production declined.  Battlingly through a serious groin injury and a difficult off-season back surgery, Cotchery fell out of favor with the new regime in 09.  The groin injury was no joke by the way.  He reportedly heard it snap of this wildly awesome play.  This video alone will make happy to see this guy sporting the black and blue.  

Always known as a character guy and locker room favorite, Cotchery’s departure wasn’t as cordial as one would think.  Although there isn’t any direct evidence, numerous veiled comments suggest Cotchery and Ryan didn’t see entirely eye-to-eye. Ryan’s early coaching success triggered a confidence and flamboyance remembered with his press conferences clowning his brother, embracing the spotlight of HBO’s Hard Knock, and we can’t forget that he loves feet! 

Cotchery obviously wasn’t enamored by Ryan’s personality nor his description of his rise to power at expense of ex-coach Mangini in his autobiography, Play Like You Mean It. Cotcherydefended Mangini against Mangini against Ryan’s light jabs. Meanwhile, the Jets continually attempted to “recruit over” Cotchery by bringing in guys like ex-con Plaxico Burress and the ornery Derrick Mason.

By 2011, Cotchery had enough and requested to be traded or released.  The parting wasn’t ugly, but there was some underlying animosity, at the very minimum the relationship had become stale.

The Pittsburgh Renaissance:

Landing in Pittsburgh for the league minimum, Cotchery found himself taking a backseat to the peaking Mike Wallace, Antonio Bryant, and Emmanuel Sanders.  The departure of Wallace in 2012 and rocky 2013 start tested the Steeler’s offense, which started out 2-6 last season.  Jerricho Cotchery’s veteran experience helped, however, Pittsburgh fight tooth and nail to save that prided Steeler dignity. Although the Steelers are aging on defense, their offensive playmakers are still pretty young.  0-4 start seemed to have shaken these players, but it didn't shake the “Walls of Jerricho,” who reigned in 89 balls for 689 yards and 10 TDs last year. 

What we got:

Cotchery has been a quiet presence in the NFL. He was the quiet, productive guy that wasn't ever a star, but never fully appreciated either.  Cotchery's best opportunity to impose himself as a #1 receiver came in a time when the Jets' offense struggled to find an identity. When the Jets did finally found success under Rex Ryan, the offense was never the primary reason driver.  It was a tough nailed defense that backed a ground and pound offense.  What should have been his best years were undermined by inconsistent quarterback play and playing for teams that never manufactured consistent offensive production.  In some ways, there are a lot of similarities to former Panther Steve Smith's years in Carolina between 2008 and 20011.  The teams they played hampered their on field production more than their ability. I mean if Smith had been a Colt in between '08 and '11, he'd be a first ballot Hall of Famer for sure.

There are two things that make me happy about this pick-up: 1)  my man Cotchery has hands.  He catches everything in the same zip code.  2) the luckiest person I have ever known (who will remain anonymous), always picked Cotchery as a third receiving option on his fantasy football team.  The quiet producer helped him win a fantasy football championship or two!!! 

Cotchery never really had the best opportunity to assert himself as a #1 receiver.  He looks to have found his shot in Carolina, however, where there aren't any established receivers ahead of him in the depth chart.  Even if the Panthers grab a receiver in the first round, it's unlikely this player would assert himself as a leader among the receiving core.  The addition would need to transition from a #2 option to a #1 option throughout the year.  Cotchery will have a chance during this time to step into that leadership role.  Let' just hope he can continue the renaissance that he started in Pittsburgh last year in the Queen city.