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Thursday notebook: Funchess misses another practice; Samuel's role "expanding"?

CHARLOTTE – Wide receiver Devin Funchess missed his second straight day of practice, putting his status for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks in doubt.

Funchess tweaked his back in the Panthers' Week 11 loss at Detroit, which was also his toughest day as a pro. Targeted eight times, he finished with two receptions for 39 yards.

Since coming to Carolina in 2015, Funchess has missed just one game. A sore knee kept him out of the 2016 finale at Tampa Bay.

Through 10 games, Funchess has played 83.4 percent of offensive snaps, by far the most of any Panthers’ wideout. If he can’t go Sunday, offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Funchess’s “X” position would be filled by “a mix” of guys.

One of those options could be Torrey Smith, who’s inching closer to a return after missing the past four games with a knee injury. He was again limited Thursday, but he did get in a few sprints.

“Torrey had a good day. Looked good, moved well, showed some speed also, which was really good to see,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “So we'll see how he's coming along, and if Devin can't play and Torrey's ready to roll, it'll help take the sting out of it.”

––If neither Funchess nor Smith can play, that would leave the Panthers with a receiving group of DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright and Damiere Byrd. For better or worse, that’s a lineup many fans would be intrigued by, especially those who want to see more Samuel.

In terms of touchdowns scored, Samuel’s five puts him behind only Christian McCaffrey (eight) for the team lead. What’s more impressive is Samuel has done his damage on just 21 touches while playing only 17.7 percent of offensive snaps.

Since playing 15 combined snaps in his first two games this season, Samuel has averaged 19.4 over his past five. And as fans clamor for more, Turner continues to preach patience.

“We're working constantly since he came back from having the issues with his heart and his surgery, we're working at expanding his role, giving him reps at different spots, giving him opportunities to go make plays,” Turner said. “He's certainly responding, so we want to use him as much as he can. That's our intention and that's what we'll do.”

––Linebacker Luke Kuechly wasn’t among the millions who were glued to Monday night’s 105-point scorefest between the Rams and Chiefs. But he’s well aware of what happened.

“Obviously they scored a ton of points. But even though they scored a bunch of points, the Rams forced five turnovers and scored twice on defense,” Kuechly reminded.

Spoken like a true defensive guy – one who understands his side of the ball is facing increased challenges in trying to slow down evolving offenses.

“It changes generationally. A while ago it was put everybody in the box and run the ball. Now it's spread everybody out and throw the ball,” Kuechly said. “That's where things are trending right now.”

So how can defenses even begin to fight back?

“Hit the quarterback,” Kuechly said. “If we're allowed to.”

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