When wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad announced his retirement last week, he ruled out any chance of coming back or signing with Carolina during training camp, saying he was "100 percent, absolutely" retired. That means the Panthers must find somebody to take over the starting job vacated by Muhammad.
There are plenty of candidates on the roster - 10 to be exact - vying for that opportunity. In fact, the team used three draft choices on wide receivers in this year's NFL Draft, choosing Brandon LaFell in the second round, Armanti Edwards in the third and David Gettis in the sixth.
"A lot of the young guys that we've got, everybody has open doors," said wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett. "We are all here to make plays and help the team win."
And Jarrett might be the most logical choice to start opposite Steve Smith. Entering his fourth NFL season, he has the most experience of any wide out other than Smith in the Panthers' system, and at 6-foot-4 and 218 pounds, he has the size to be a possession receiver and an effective blocker in the running game.
In his first three seasons, Jarrett played in 29 games with four starts and posted 33 receptions for 388 yards and one touchdown. He is focused on making more plays and improving those statistics this year. Jarrett's dedication and commitment have been evident during summer school.
"I feel like I'm doing a good job out there," he said. "I feel a lot stronger and faster (coming) in and out of my breaks than I did last year. I feel like I'm ready to help out this team and I want to do that in any way I can."
A second-round selection (45th overall) from Southern California by Carolina in 2007, Jarrett was only 20 years old when he was drafted. Now 23, he has grown and learned a lot over the last three years. He said the improvements he has made off the field in terms of studying more will help him the most on the field.
"There are a lot of things I had to learn coming in, and it's still a continuing learning process. You never stop learning this game. You always have to be a student of the game, and that's what I've been doing," Jarrett said.
"Preparation, watching a lot more film than I have in the past, being a student of the game. I think that's the most important part of this game at this level and paying attention to the details of it."
Someone who is helping Jarrett with the details of the game is new wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. He joined the Panthers following seven seasons with the Buffalo Bills, where he developed young wide receivers Lee Evans, Roscoe Parrish and Josh Reed.
"He's definitely taught us a lot of different techniques and a lot of things that can help us out on the field. We have to take what we learned in practice and translate it to the game," Jarrett said. "I can catch the ball. It's just the little things - using different releases and reading the defense faster and stuff like that - pretty much the details of the game."
All those details Jarrett has been working on looked perfect on his first career touchdown - a 30-yard scoring catch in the 2009 regular-season finale versus the New Orleans Saints. His route, his cut in front of a defender, the pass, his surge across the goal line.
Jarrett will also have a new quarterback throwing him the ball this year. But he and projected starter Matt Moore already have a chemistry together. They both came into the league as rookies in 2007, and the two connected on Jarrett's touchdown against the Saints.
"The more we work together, the more I get comfortable with him and the more he gets comfortable with me. Things work out like that," Jarrett said. "We ended up at the end of the season making a good connection with each other and I think it should just continue on to this year."
Head coach John Fox said, "Sometimes it takes game reps to really have the light come on. He's had moments. I remember the Arizona game here a regular season ago where he had two big-time third-down plays that probably saved us the game, because it kept them (the Cardinals offense) off the field."
And that's what Jarrett wants to consistently do.
"I have to go out there and do what I have to do," he said. "I have to go out there and work hard and try to make plays for the team and help us win games."