The Carolina Panthers have 14 wide receivers on the roster so snaps are in high demand and when you get an opportunity to make plays, you need to capitalize. There are two second-year wide receivers who have done just that in Devin Funchess and Damiere Byrd who had a strong week at the team's minicamp this week.
Funchess is looking to compete for a spot in the Panthers' starting lineup and looks to be building off a strong finish to his rookie season, one where he caught six touchdowns in the final 12 games. The former Michigan Wolverine missed the first practice of the week due to a sickness but after the second head coach Ron Rivera had this to say about what changes he has seen in Funchess:
"I think his overall presence. He walks on the field and he has a lot of confidence. He is running good routes and he is making good catches."
The return of Kelvin Benjamin to this offense is sure to shake up the depth chart but Funchess has a change to compete for the starting job opposite Benjamin or develop into the slot receiver and replace Jerricho Cotchery.
While Funchess' role in this offense is still up in the air, his spot on the roster is fairly secure. The same can't be said for Byrd but the former South Carolina Gamecock is making a strong case to earn one of the spots on the 53-man roster.
Byrd had the play of the day on the first day of minicamp when he caught a long pass from Cam Newton.
After that practice, Rivera praised the improvements Byrd has made this offseason. "Damiere appreciates hearing that he looks bigger," Rivera said. "His routes are better than last year and that's a big compliment because he works very hard at it."
"You see him attacking the ball. One of the things Ricky [Proehl] likes to preach with his receivers is you have to attack the football when it's in the air and you see that from Damiere."
During training camp last year, Byrd showed incredible speed and the potential he showed earned him a spot on the Panthers' practice squad last year. If he continues to improve at the rate he is, the Panthers won't want him on the practice squad but rather suiting up for them on Sundays.
The Panthers will have five, possibly six, wide receivers on their 53-man roster and from what they say this past week they are clearly going to be faced with some tough decisions as they try to cut this group down from the 14 receivers.
To watch any of Ron Rivera's press conferences after practice, click here.