The Panthers believe fourth-rounder Joe Adams will make an immediate impact as a punt returner.
Any plays he makes on offense, however, will probably be down the line.
The Panthers drafted the SEC special teams player of the year to add some sizzle to their punt returns, which ranked 30th in the league last year at 5.5 yards per. In that job, Adams will replace third-year receiver Armanti Edwards.
But it sounds like the Panthers aren't expecting Adams to play much offense in the short term.
They're well covered for starters with Steve Smith and the emerging Brandon LaFell, and hope David Gettis comes back from a torn ACL to add some size and speed to the lineup. Considering how much two-back and two-tight end the Panthers use, that doesn't leave much work for a fourth or fifth receiver to begin with, and kick returner Kealoha Pilares and Edwards are fighting for jobs alongside Seyi Ajirotutu and Darvin Adams and a host of rookies.
"He caught pretty much everything that was punted to him," Rivera said of Adams. "One thing that you would like to see him do is work a little bit more on his receiving abilities. Because once that ball is in his hands, he is a dynamic player. We saw it a couple of times today. He caught a couple of slants and quick ins over the middle, and there were some really good things that caught your attention.
"If we can get the ball in his hands on the offensive side of the ball with his ability to make people miss, you've got some plays that can be made."
Adams fumbled 11 times in college, and Rivera has shown that ball security is a major issue. Former running back Mike Goodson made his way into the doghouse and was eventually traded to Oakland because they didn't trust him after a rash of preseason fumbles. However, team officials think most of Adams' problems in that regard were on offense, which lends more evidence that they want to bring him along slowly there.