NFL: LaFell could start for Panthers
CHARLOTTE ó Wide receiver Legedu Naanee missed his second straight day of practice Friday due to Achilles tendinitis in his left leg, meaning Brandon LaFell could make his first start of the season Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
Coach Ron Rivera said Friday heís ěa little concernedî about Naaneeís status.
LaFell has been the teamís third receiver this season and has 21 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns, but a starting role would bring new challenges.
Rivera said Naanee has done a good job of downfield blocking for the Panthers and likes that heís not shy about catching balls over the middle and in traffic while lining up the ěZî position.
Rivera said thatís something LaFell will need to show he can do.
ěMost of Brandonís big plays have come when the ball needs to be pushed downfield and thatís where he can shine,î Rivera said. ěYou look where Legeduís catches come and they come in traffic, where you see a lot of Brandonís catches come when heís going away from traffic.
ěWe use those receivers differently. It will be interesting to see how Brandon copes with having to run the different types of routes (over the middle) that are required to be run by that position.î
If Naanee is out, the Panthers could also use more two-tight-end packages Sunday with Jeremy Shockey set to return after missing last weekís game because of bruised ribs. Seyi Ajirotutu, Armanti Edwards and Kealoha Pilares could see spot duty as the third receiver against the Colts depending on the package.
The Panthers brought in Naanee as a free agent in August after LaFell and fellow second-year receiver David Gettis initially struggled to pick up Rob Chudzinskiís offensive scheme.
Naanee has been the starter ever since.
Gettis, who started 15 games last year, tore an ACL and was placed on injured reserve. LaFell has since gotten a grasp on the offense, but hasnít been able to replace Naanee.
Although Naanee hasnít put up big numbers ó heís tied for 37th in the NFC with 33 receptions with 355 yards and has yet to score a touchdown ó Rivera said heís pleased with what heís brought to the team in terms of his blocking and his leadership. And he hopes the Panthers will be able to re-sign Naanee when his contract expires after the season.