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Position preview: Wide receivers

Posted Jul 11, 2012

Since the retirement of Muhsin Muhammad, the Panthers' all-time leading receiver before Steve Smith surpassed him last season, fans have clamored for an established No. 2 receiver to run alongside Smith.

The Panthers feel like they've found their man – or rather, their men.

Weeks before Muhammad retired in June of 2010, the Panthers selected Brandon LaFell in the third round and David Gettis in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.

Both showed promise as rookies on a struggling offense, and LaFell continued his development last season. Gettis missed last year with a knee injury suffered in training camp but appears poised to pick up where he left off as a rookie.

Smith, an 11-year veteran who signed a three-year extension in April, remains the man, but the position as a whole appears to be a strength as training camp fast approaches.

RETURNERS

Steve Smith
Enjoyed a bounce-back season in 2011 with rookie quarterback Cam Newton at the controls, tying the franchise record with his fifth Pro Bowl appearance – his first since 2008. … Ranked fifth in NFL with 1,394 receiving yards, catching 79 balls and scoring seven times. … Averaged 17.7 yards per catch, second best in franchise history behind his 18.2-yard average in 2008. … Became the 35th player in NFL history to reach 10,000 receiving yards while passing Muhammad as franchise's all-time leader in receiving yards (10,278) and receptions (699). … Added to his franchise record with 67 total touchdowns.

Brandon LaFell
Started the final six games of 2011, producing his first 100-yard receiving game and setting a franchise record with a 91-yard touchdown reception during a Week 16 victory. … Finished the season with 613 receiving yards – second on the team – on 36 catches. … Averaged 17.0 yards per catch, also second to Smith. … In 2010, ranked fourth among NFL rookies in receptions (38) and sixth in yards (468).

David Gettis
Suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during training camp and missed the entire 2011 season, but expected to be at full speed for training camp. … That speed is impressive, in the 4.4 range prior to the injury. … Ranked fourth in receiving yards (508) and fifth in receptions (37) among NFL rookies in 2010, and led the team with three touchdown catches. … Included an 88-yard touchdown against the Ravens and an eight-catch, 125-yard showing with two touchdowns to key a victory over the 49ers.

Kealoha Pilares
The fifth-round pick made his impact on special teams as a rookie in 2011. … Named NFL Special Teams Player of the Week in Week 11 after a franchise-record kickoff return of 101 yards at Detroit. … Had a 76-yard return a week later at Indianapolis. … Finished fifth in the NFC with a 25.7-yard kickoff return average. … Didn't catch a pass but caught 154 for 1,996 yards and 19 touchdowns over final two seasons at Hawaii.

Armanti Edwards
Served as Panthers' punt returner in 2011, averaging 5.5 yards with a long of 17. … Converted quarterback also completed a pass for 11 yards and had a 5-yard run, but he didn't catch a pass. … Also had one pass completion and one rush but no catches as a rookie in 2010 after a stellar career at Appalachian State in which he became first college player to pass for 10,000 yards and run for 4,000 yards.

Seyi Ajirotutu
Played in 14 games last season, almost exclusively on special teams, making one catch for 4 yards. … Caught 13 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns as an undrafted rookie with the San Diego Chargers in 2010.

Darvin Adams
Spent first 10 games of rookie season on practice squad and played on special teams in final two games. … Was Newton's leading receiver during Auburn's national title run in 2010, including a record 217 yards in the SEC Championship Game.


ROOKIES

Joe Adams
The Panthers' fourth-round draft pick was the most dynamic punt returner in college football over the past two seasons at Arkansas, averaging 15.8 yards and scoring five times. … Also an accomplished receiver, ranking second in school history with 164 catches for 2,410 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Jared Green
Undrafted free agent is the son of Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green. … Spent last two seasons at Southern and first two at Virginia, totaling 52 catches for 670 yards and four touchdowns.

Rico Wallace
A force at Division III Shenandoah, amassing 189 catches for 3,287 yards and 28 touchdowns over his four-year career. … A second-team All-American as a senior.

Brenton Bersin
Charlotte native ranks third in Wofford history with 15 receiving touchdowns. … Tied school record with nine receiving touchdowns in 2010, matching Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson's mark set in 1958.

Hubert Anyiam
A late addition after the Chargers waived him in May. … Caught 83 passes for 1,052 yards and nine touchdowns during an injury-riddled career at Oklahoma State.

Michael Avila
Signed June 11 after taking part in the Panthers' rookie camp in May as one of 32 invited tryout players. … Caught 31 passes for 247 yards at San Jose State.

Lamont Bryant
Played tight end at Morgan State and compiled 44 catches for 677 yards and four touchdowns. … A first-team all-MEAC selection last season.


Panthers.com is taking a position-by-position look at the 90-man roster leading up to the start of the training camp. The series began Tuesday with the quarterbacks.