Jarrett Boykin and Brenton Bersin can do the math.
They’re aware of the five receivers ahead of them on the Panthers depth chart. If Carolina keeps a sixth, it’ll probably be one of them. And it’ll leave the other looking for work.
In Friday night’s 25-24 victory against the Bills, Boykin and Bersin tried to apply what coach Ron Rivera had been saying all day as they sit 2 1/2 weeks away from the final roster cuts.
“Everything I do I do it with a purpose,” Boykin told the Observer after the game. “I don’t go out here and lollygag. So every game or walk through I carry a businesslike mentality. Like coach said all day long and reiterating, just making the most of opportunities. Whenever the ball came my way I tried to do what I could to make that play.”
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Both players had one catch each in the opening drive of the third quarter. Boykin’s catch preserved the drive while Bersin’s touchdown catch sealed it.
When the time comes to whittle the roster down, Friday night won’t make the decision any easier for Rivera.
“Those two in particular, they’re veteran guys and they both have had success at the position,” Rivera said. “They’ve both shown and grown. They both practiced extremely hard and they both played really well (Friday) and I can’t wait to get an opportunity to look at the tape.”
For Boykin, what Rivera would see on the tape was a last-second communication between the receiver and No. 2 quarterback Derek Anderson on a third-and-15 from the Buffalo 39.
Anderson checked Boykin, a Butler graduate who played three years with the Packers before signing with the Panthers in the offseason, into a corner route and threw a fade to his back shoulder. Boykin adjusted and made the catch for a 16-yard gain and a first down.
“He put the ball in a tremendous spot to where the (defensive back) couldn’t get it and it was just a matter of going up and making a play,” Boykin said. “I felt good that he put that trust in me so I wanted to return the favor and make the catch for him.”
Three plays later, Anderson looked for Bersin in the end zone but didn’t leave the Charlotte Latin product with enough room to get his feet down in bounds. Backed up to the 12 after a delay of game, Anderson sat in the pocket and looked for Bersin working out of the slot.
Bersin couldn’t shake the defender and Anderson scrambled left. Bersin worked toward the left side of the end zone as Anderson threw him open. Bersin dove to the ground and made a great hands catch for the touchdown.
Anderson is comfortably in the No. 2 quarterback role ahead of Joe Webb, so he’s assured of making the team. But for guys like Bersin and Boykin – who are behind Kevin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Jerricho Cotchery, Corey Brown and Ted Ginn Jr. – Anderson can’t play like he’s guaranteed a spot.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to make sure I put those guys in the right spots,” Anderson said. “I get nervous every game no matter what. It’s important to me, so I want my group to be successful and it takes all of us.”
Cam Newton referred to it not as a heated competition but a healthy one. As long as Bersin and Boykin push each other, and as long as younger players like Damiere Byrd and Mike Brown make plays, the receiving corps will naturally improve.
But individually, these players know what’s at stake.
“I want to see everyone be successful and make us better as a team, but obviously you can’t keep all 90 guys,” Bersin said. “You’ve just got to go out there and compete and play well and consistent in practice. Just do your job and what happens, happens.”