Edwards: A Closer Look at Rod Gardner

Many Panthers Fans have been speculating that the Panthers may have interest in Redskins' 6'2" 213 lb. WR Rod Gardner, if he is released. This makes sense, as the two currently projected starters at the position, Steve Smith and Keary Colbert are 5'9" and 6'1", respectively. Their third receiver, Ricky Proehl, is in the last year of his career and his supposed successor, the 6'4" athletically gifted Drew Carter, has showed promise but still has many durability questions that need to be answered.

Rod Gardner could theoretically provide the big, physical receiver the Panthers lack due to the departure of Muhsin Muhammad. Gardner's playing style is similar to Muhammad's in that he is a physical receiver who makes plays using his strength and size more so than his speed. Like Mumhammad, Gardner lacks true game breaking speed, but provides the QB a big target and can physically dominate many CBs. However, also like Muhammad, Gardner has been plagued by inconsistency. He will make an amazing Sports Center Top 10 catch, then he'll drop the next two that hit him in the bread basket.

As a rookie in '01, Gardner caught 46 balls for 741 yards, averaging 16.1 yard per catch, while amassing 4 TD receptions. He followed this up his second year with his best season to date in which he caught 71 balls for 1006 yards averaging 14.2 yards per catch and racking-up 8 TD receptions. The '03 season was his worst as a pro when he caught 59 passes for 600 yards for a 10.2 yard average, but he still had 5 TD receptions. This past season was not much better when he caught 51 balls for 650 yards for a 12.7 yard average, but yet again, he still managed 5 TD. Despite low catch numbers and yards, he has still managed to produce a surprising number of TDs. Could he be that elusive red zone receiving threat the panthers have been looking for? Another promising figure is that 139 or his 227 catches have been for first downs. Gardner has been injury free during his career and has started 62 of his 64 career games.

Gardner's rookie season was a decent campaign, but not spectacular. This can be said for many promising rookie receivers. He responded by performing much better in his second season and looked like he was ready to perhaps become an elite receiver. What happened? If one looks at the QB numbers from the past two seasons, they tell part of the story. In '03, Patrick Ramsey completed only 179 of his 337 attempts (53.1%) for 2166 yards and a 6.43 yards per attempt average. Any wonder why this was Gardner's worst year? 2004 was no better. Though Ramsey showed improvement completing 169 of his 272 passes (62.1%) for 1665 yards, but only a 6.12 yards per attempt average, he was benched for Mark Brunell who performed miserably. In his stint as a starter, Brunell completed a miserable 118 of 237 attempts (49.8%) for 1194 yards and a 5.04 yards per attempt average. The Redskins offense and quarterbacks simply are not producing numbers. Is it any wonder why Laverneus Coles wanted out?

It appears as if Gardner's welcome is worn out in Washington and perhaps his patience with that franchise has worn thin also. He started his career promisingly, but has struggled the past two seasons. Perhaps he needs a change of scenery, a different system, and a different coaching staff to help him refocus and become the receiver he showed signs of becoming. A decent QB throwing him the ball also wouldn't hurt.

The bottom line: Rod Gardner could provide the big, physical receiver the Panthers will miss without Muhsin Muhammad. He has been inconsistent, but so was Muhammad at times. Perhaps a change of teams will help him refocus. The Panthers would do well to inquire about him, the fact remains that there are other teams out there with more cap room and greater need at the position than the Panthers.

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