Excuses, Excuses

Despite the fact starting wide receiver Keary Colbert has only 14 catches in 10 games this season - that's as many as fellow receiver Steve Smith had Sunday against the Chicago Bears - coach John Fox insists he isn't disappointed with the second-year player.

This, even though Colbert caught 47 passes in 15 starts as a rookie last season.

"On Sunday, there was no double coverage of Steve (Smith)," Fox said. "If there was double coverage on Steve, there was a double coverage on the other receiver because they were running cover two.

"They were either manned up or both doubled. If you had to say whom we would throw to if it were singled up, the answer would probably be Steve Smith. I think that's as much a thing as anything. It's not that the other guys aren't ever open. There are things that come into play. If they are singled up, Steve has proven pretty worthy. I don't think that's a negative."

Despite Fox downplaying the situation, it's still quite obvious to anyone watching this team on a week-by-week basis that it needs another big-play threat in the passing game or at least a reliable possession receiver. Colbert, who has been shut out in four games, has been neither.

And perhaps they Panthers are looking for that in Rod Gardner.

Colbert's playing time does seem to be decreasing rapidly. He started Sunday against the Bears, but spent most of the first half on the sidelines while Gardner saw increased action.

"Basically, he and Rod Gardner have been splitting time for quite a few weeks. It's just based on personnel group and the rotation," Fox said. "But they've been rotating for quite some time now, not just yesterday."

Fox said he doesn't care who quarterback Jake Delhomme throws the ball to, as long as the Panthers' passing game is clicking.

"Right now, we throw it to who's open and (Sunday) we even threw it to a couple of guys on the other team. That concerns me more than who's catching them," Fox said.

When asked if the team's other receivers aren't getting open, Fox replied, "Keary Colbert was open on the first play of the game. There's a lot more that goes into it than whether a guy is open. You've got to protect and you've got to get them the ball. There are a lot of things that go into somebody catching a pass. Sometimes there's a guy in the quarterback's face. Sometimes the opponent interferes with them. Sometimes the quarterback misses them. There is a lot that goes into passing and catching the ball, not just whether the receiver gets open."

Eventually a team is going to take away Steve Smith and when they do, the Panthers are going to be in trouble.

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