Brandon LaFell Has Panthers Number Two WR Job Locked Up?
The search for a true number two wide receiver to place opposite of Steve Smith in Carolina may be over. According to ESPN.com, Panthers’ third-year wide receiver Brandon LaFell has the starting gig “locked up” and should enter week one of the 2012 season with that role, barring a collapse.
LaFell’s emergence as a big-play threat last season allowed the team to enter this off-season with the luxury of giving him a full summer to win the job. After a strong camp and a lack of competition at the position, LaFell has reportedly earned his stripes and will be the number two receiver.
LaFell posted 600+ yards and over 17 yards per reception in his second season in 2011, despite sharing time on the field with the now departed Legedu Naanee and other receivers.
The starting gig is all his now, though, which could allow this big, physical target to truly blossom in his third season. With starting snaps, Cam Newton’s development, and Steve Smith keeping defenses honest on the other side, LaFell could be a threat for a 1,000+ yard season, while his red-zone body could lead to more targets (and less Cam Newton rushing scores) near the goal-line.
With LaFell as the number two option, David Gettis figures to man the slot as the team’s third weapon in the passing game, although rookie receiver Joe Adams could also push for time in that spot.
It remains to be seen if LaFell will actually flourish with this new role or crumble under the pressure, but his talent and last year’s sample size of his potential tell us he can succeed. Now he just has to make it happen.