Panthers’ receivers struggling to catch on
By By MIKE CRANSTON, AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE — Carolina Panthers rookie Dwayne Jarrett was at his locker Wednesday answering questions about his frustrating season when teammate Steve Smith walked by and interrupted him.
Jarrett broke into a half smile and started talking again.
Smith is angry at not getting the ball, while Jarrett can’t learn enough of the playbook to be among the active players on gameday to lessen Smith’s load. And as the Panthers struggle with the 26th-rated passing offense, Keyshawn Johnson is wearing expensive suits as a TV talking head.
It’s clear things haven’t worked the way the Panthers hoped at receiver following two big offseason moves designed to open up things for Smith.
A three-time Pro Bowl pick, Smith has decent numbers with 37 catches for 514 yards and six touchdowns. But he’s been quiet in four of seven games while being the constant focus of opposing defenses.
Smith was held to two catches for 18 yards in Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis, when the Colts moved a safety toward Smith on nearly every play to provide double coverage.
And while a lot of Carolina’s passing problems can be attributed to the inconsistency with quarterbacks Jake Delhomme, Carr and Vinny Testaverde all suffering injuries, things would be much easier if the Panthers had a serious threat opposite Smith.
They thought Jarrett would be that guy. Three days after they took the 6-foot-4 possession receiver from Southern California in the second round of the draft, the Panthers released the soon-to-be 35-year-old Johnson, who later took a job at ESPN.
But not only did Keary Colbert win the starting job, Jarrett can’t even get a uniform on gameday. Because he’s struggled to learn the offense and doesn’t play special teams, Jarrett has been inactive in all but one game.
Jarrett, who set a Pac-10 record with 41 touchdown catches in only three college seasons, has one catch for 6 yards.
Jarrett insisted Wednesday he’s been slowly grasping the offense.
With Jarrett spending most Sundays in street clothes, Colbert and Drew Carter have split time at receiver. They’ve combined for 32 catches, but also a number of drops.
Meanwhile, the frustration mounts for the heavily covered Smith. He was seen screaming at offensive coaches on a sideline telephone during the loss to Tampa Bay in Week 4. He was seen yelling at Carr on the sideline late in the fourth quarter of the Colts loss.
Carr, who will likely start Sunday at Tennessee with Testaverde nursing a sore Achilles’ tendon, has tried to quell the tension with Smith.
It would help if Jarrett would learn enough of the playbook to contribute.