The Panthers signed free agent wide receiver Tiquan Underwood to a two-year deal after losing their top four receivers from 2013. You don't do that unless you expect him to make the roster. As of now he's on the outside looking in. The top three are Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant. If the season started today, because of his return duties, undrafted rookie Philly Brown would be the fourth. Brenton Bersin would be the fifth in the team activated five. Odds are Carolina won't keep more than six receivers on their 53-man roster. HC Ron Rivera continues to harp that he wants to see one or two outside the top three step up. Underwood is one of those because of his elite speed, something the top three don't have and another reason Brown's stock has risen. That the opponent is New England is a bit ironic because the Patriots released him the night before their Super Bowl loss to the Giants during the 2011 season. Rivera is going to give the young receivers more opportunities. If Underwood doesn't step up, he could be in danger of being cut for the ninth time in his career.
The Panthers are better at receiver than they were a year ago. Nothing against Steve L Smith, but at 35 he was no better than a No. 2 receiver and at the end of his career. Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon really weren't big losses when you look at it closely. Hixon wouldn't have been a loss at all were it not for the game-winning touchdown against New Orleans. The key here will be chemistry, but first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin looks like a red zone beast at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds. Free agent signees Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant are solid possession receivers, and more dependable than the players they replaced. Who steps up as the fourth receiver will be the biggest question, whether it's free agent Tiquan Underwood or one of the young receivers. The Panthers plan to run a lot more two tight-end sets makes that less critical.
We project Cotchery and Benjamin to start but believe that Greg Olsen will once again lead the team in catches. Benjamin has upside, but Cotchery is a dirt cheap WR5/WR6 option available in the final rounds.
Cam Newton participated in 7-on-7 drills during the team's June workouts, a month earlier than expected coming off March ankle surgery.
Still, with a completely new receiving corps, the lack of chemistry building this offseason has made the transition more difficult, Panthers wideout Tiquan Underwood told USA Today's Tom Pelissero Thursday.
However, as training camp approaches, the quarterbacks and receivers plan to meet in an attempt to compensate for lost time.
With an entirely new receiving corps, chemistry with his receivers is one of the concerns we have with Newton heading into training camp. It sounds as if the ankle injury is behind him, so if he can quickly build a rapport with Jerricho Cotchery and Kelvin Benjamin, the passing game shouldn't see a major downgrade in 2014.
Panthers WRs Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant provide experience, and rookie Kelvin Benjamin provides a big target (6-5, 240) that will be tough to keep off the field. Tiquan Underwood is the most likely to round out the top four.
Cotchery and Benjamin have the most fantasy appeal of this group. Cotchery was the #31 WR in 2013 thanks to his work in the redzone, which is also where Benjamin is likely to make his biggest impact.