NFL: Panthers turn to veteran receivers
CHARLOTTE ó Just like last season, No. 18 lined up next to Steve Smith in the Carolina Panthers’ three-receiver set at Sunday’s minicamp practice.
Only this No. 18 wasn’t the underachieving speedster with suspect hands. The Panthers have traded out Drew Carter for D.J. Hackett.
Keary Colbert wasn’t around on the sun-splashed morning either. Veteran Muhsin Muhammad, another offseason pickup, was split wide right on the same play.
Hackett and Muhammad are part of Carolina’s offseason upgrade at receiver, designed to eliminate the constant double teams the three-time Pro Bowl selection Smith faced last season.
“I don’t know much about what was here before. I’m not going to comment on that,” Hackett said when asked about Carolina’s woes with Carter and Colbert, who were released in the offseason. “But from the looks of it now, it looks pretty good to me. We’ve got a lot of talent, and some age, but not too old. It looks good.”
Hackett, part of a deep pool of receivers in Seattle, was limited to six games last year because of a lingering high-ankle sprain. When the Seahawks made little effort to keep him, Hackett signed a two-year, $3.5 million deal with Carolina. The Panthers also signed Muhammad after he was released by Chicago.
“What you try to do is regroup in the offseason,” coach John Fox said. “That was an area, the wide receiver position, where we felt like we needed to add some depth, not just good players, but good guys, too. I think we hit that on both those guys.”
While Smith three years removed from leading the NFL in catches, yards receiving and touchdown catches, his numbers have dipped the past two seasons as the Panthers searched for a No. 2 receiver.
Keyshawn Johnson caught 70 passes in 2006, but the Panthers struggled to score, went 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
Johnson was released when the Panthers drafted Dwayne Jarrett in the second round in 2007. But Jarrett not only didn’t become the immediate starter the team had hoped.