After strong showing, Gettis firmly in mix to be Panthers' No. 3 receiver

jperson@charlotteobserver.comAugust 16, 2013 

The battle for the Panthers’ No. 3 wide receiver spot is turning up a lot of old names and resurrecting a couple of careers.

First, Armanti Edwards. Now David Gettis.

Domenik Hixon, thought to be the leading candidate for the position when he signed as a free agent in March, is on the clock.

While Hixon and Edwards sat out Thursday’s game at Philadelphia with hamstring injuries, Gettis turned in another strong performance with five catches for 82 yards in the Panthers’ 14-9 loss.

Coming off two injury-plagued seasons after a promising rookie year, Gettis is a factor again.

“I’m very excited for David. He stepped up and played a very good football game, and I told the players I thought it was a very inspirational effort he gave,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “Some guys can learn from guys who are playing hard and doing their best to make this football team.”

Gettis, who turns 26 this month, has been the Panthers’ leading receiver in both of their exhibitions. He’s yet to catch a pass from Cam Newton, although that could change.

Asked if Gettis’ play was putting pressure on Hixon, Rivera said: “It’s putting a lot of pressure on a lot of guys.”

Gettis, a sixth-round pick from Baylor in 2010, was a bright spot during the dark 2-14 season three years ago. He pulled down 37 passes for 508 yards, fourth among rookie receivers.

After a torn ACL at Spartanburg ended his 2011 season, Gettis spent last year dealing with a hamstring issue. The time he logged in the tub helps him empathize with Hixon, Edwards and second-year receiver Joe Adams, who has been out with a calf strain.

“You don’t ever want to see one of your teammates get hurt. I’ve been in that position and I know the guys in my room would never think anything like that,” Gettis said. “So I want those guys to come back as soon as possible because at the end of the day, we’re family.”

“I understand the numbers,” Gettis added. “We don’t think like that.”

Free agent acquisition Ted Ginn Jr. started as the No. 3 wideout against the Eagles, and had two catches for 39 yards. Ginn is a lock to make the team as a returner, but the competition for the last couple of receiving spots is getting interesting.

Gettis, who is running well and catching more consistently of late, has put himself in the mix.

“Let’s don’t forget two years ago when I got here he was in a battle until he got hurt,” Rivera said. “He had a good rookie year, and coming off the knee surgery he struggled last year. Now he seems to be back to the kind of guy we thought he could be.”

Other observations from Thursday’s game:

• New safety Mike Mitchell picked up his first personal foul penalty as a Panther. It won’t be his last. Mitchell’s aggressiveness is one of his best attributes, but he has to avoid needless penalties.

• Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said recently the Panthers’ cornerbacks have to be tacklers in his system. But the corners have missed a few hits during the first two exhibitions, none more glaring than Drayton Florence’s whiff on LeSean McCoy.

• The Panthers averaged only 3 yards a carry, but the line was pretty physical. Had the starters stayed in, it felt like the kind of game where the lanes would have widened for DeAngelo Williams as the Panthers kept pounding the run.

• Have to appreciate rookie defensive tackle Star Lotulelei’s candor. The first-round pick admitted the Eagles’ fast-pace offense wore him out. He wasn’t the only one.

• Coaches might have seen this coming. When the defense practiced against the hurry-up offense at the end of a practice in Spartanburg, a couple of defensive linemen were essentially leaning on the offensive linemen by the end of it.

• Rivera became a little uneasy when someone brought up the subject of rookie Kenjon Barner’s ball security. It seemed Rivera doesn’t want Barner preoccupied by it. Barner’s muffed punt wasn’t entirely his fault; D.J. Campbell, who nearly collided with Barner, has to be more aware of where he is on the field, Rivera said.

• Rivera and McDermott are still experimenting with personnel groupings in the secondary. A week after his two-interception game vs. Chicago, corner Josh Norman didn’t play until late in the first half. He promptly picked off Michael Vick’s Hail Mary pass at the end of the half.

• Ginn has yet to field a punt or kickoff, and might not. Why expose him to injury in one of the game’s most dangerous plays? Undrafted rookie Michael Zordich tore his ACL and was lost for the year covering a kick against the Bears on one of his first plays as a pro.

Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson

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