Panthers Notebook

Panthers looking at kick returner position

jjones@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 21, 2012 

The Carolina Panthers drafted Joe Adams hoping that he could exploit opposing special teams in the same way he did as a punt returner at Arkansas.

Though he’s shown flashes of those abilities this season, Adams fumbled away a kickoff and muffed another punt against the New York Giants on Thursday.

Head coach Ron Rivera vowed after the game that he and his staff will take a close look at the kick returner position before making a move.

“It was disappointing for Joe. He has struggled. You take a look at the tape and you see he had opportunities to make plays and he didn’t,” Rivera said. “He’s going to have to learn and learn from these mistakes. And there’s a point where we can’t tolerate those and we’re going to have to make decisions.

“But until then, he’s still our return guy. We’re going to the process with everybody.”

Down 20-0 coming out of halftime, the one bright spot for the Panthers was that they’d get the ball to start the second quarter. Adams brought the ball out of the end zone to the 23-yard line before getting stripped. The Giants recovered on the Carolina 19. Adams then muffed a punt in the closing minutes with the game out of reach.

Kealoha Pilares began the season as the kick returner while Adams was solely a punt returner. But Adams returned kicks during the Tampa Bay game, and Pilares soon became his backup.

Rivera said Adams has big-play ability, and that was the reason for his promotion. But Pilares brought one kick back for a touchdown in both the preseason and regular season last year and averaged 25.7 yards per return.

“The thing we have to understand, if a guy’s a home run hitter, if a guy has big-play potential you have to give him opportunities. Now, when things like this happen, we have to re-evaluate it and that’s what we’re doing.

“(Pilares has) a different kind of ability. Joe’s a dynamic player and he’s done it in the past. We’re trying to find out if he can become that guy.”

STARTING SLOW: Opponents have scored on the first drive in each of the Panthers’ three games this season.

The Giants put together an eight-play, 80-yard drive in 3:22 to take a 7-0 lead against Carolina. It was the quickest first-drive score against Carolina of the three, and Rivera was sure to remind his defense of that during the game.

“I made a point of it too when it happened. I pointed it out to the defensive coaches as well,” Rivera said. “One week it was third downs, the next week it was opportunities to make plays and not making them. The next it was tackling. There are elements of this game that we have to get corrected quicker.”

SLEEPLESS IN CHARLOTTE: The loss obviously didn’t sit well with the Panthers, and it especially didn’t with cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

Munnerlyn, who plays nickel back after losing the starting cornerback position to rookie Josh Norman, said he had trouble shutting his eyes after the 29-point loss Thursday.

“All I kept thinking about was the game,” Munnerlyn said. “What could I have done better to help the team. It was just real tough to sleep last night, and I knew I had to come in this morning and watch the film with the coaches.”

INJURY UPDATE: With two games in five days, there are plenty of black and blue Panthers heading into the weekend.

Defensive end Greg Hardy has a thumb injury, defensive end Antwan Applewhite suffered a lacerated knee during the game and linebacker Jon Beason was “a little more sore” than he was previously, Rivera said.

Starting offensive tackle Byron Bell sat out Thursday night with a lower left ankle sprain. He said there was a lot of swelling around the ankle this week, but he’s gotten his mobility back day by day.

“I’ve just been getting treatment these last couple days,” Bell said. “I got out of the boot. I will be ready to go this upcoming Sunday.”

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