Of the 11 players they selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers grabbed two wide receivers — second-rounder Terrace Marshall Jr. and sixth-rounder Shi Smith. But who would have thought, a little over a year later, that it would be the latter who would have more opportunities than the former?
Probably nobody. But that hasn’t stopped Smith from forging his way into the offense and now, with returner Andre Roberts expected to miss a few months on injured reserve, in a starring role on special teams.
Carolina special teams coordinator Chris Tabor spoke to reporters before practice Thursday. Asked if he was confident Smith would take over from Roberts, a move head coach Matt Rhule alluded to earlier in the week, Tabor said Smith’s increased exposure has helped. to its increased role.
“He had a lot of catches,” Tabor said. “And I think it’s like anything. I know it’s very cliché, but that’s…that’s the next one. He’s done it in pre-season games, he does it out of training and, I think the other thing, he plays a lot in attack. And I think he feels comfortable on the pitch.
Smith was one of three wides, along with DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson, to see this pitch last Sunday. He racked up 41 offensive snaps, which accounted for 77% of the unit’s presence in Week 1.
The sophomore wide receiver used that time to amass a catch for 12 yards on three targets. Marshall Jr., meanwhile, did not leave the sideline that afternoon.
While that will hopefully change for Marshall Jr., he will most likely watch two of his fellow 2021 rookies replace Roberts at the Meadowlands. So, as Rhule also mentioned, expect running back Chuba Hubbard to take on kick return duties as Smith tries his hand at punts this weekend.