Panthers wide receiver position remains in state of flux

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers wide receiver position is in a state of flux less than two weeks before the regular season opener.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Monday he hasn't decided who'll start at either receiver position in the wake of the injury to Kelvin Benjamin nearly two weeks ago.

Philly Brown can't seem to hold on to the ball - he's dropped five passes in the last two preseason games, including a pair of would-be touchdowns - while veteran Jerricho Cotchery injured his groin last week and remains out of practice and rookie Devin Funchess felt his hamstring tightened up on him late in practice.

Outside of Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn Jr. has been Carolina's most consistent player in the pass receiver, although the eight-year NFL veteran is certainly not a lock to start.

''We're still working through a lot of things right now,'' Rivera said. ''Things will take care of themselves. It'll unfold and we'll be ready to go.''

Rivera has been high on the Panthers depth at wide receiver throughout the offseason, but that is now being tested with Benjamin out with a torn ACL.

The Panthers had hoped the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Brown would be ready to step in and replace Benjamin, but the former Ohio State standout has been targeted nine times and has only one catch for 5 yards. Rivera said he hasn't lost faith in Brown, who had 21 catches for 296 yards and two touchdowns as an undrafted rookie last season.

Rivera said wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl has been working closely with Brown to get him back on track.

''Ricky pointed it out after watching film that Corey needs to attack the ball,'' Rivera said. ''If you look at the drops he had, he was waiting for the ball to come to him.''

Normally Rivera rests his starters for the final preseason game, but said Brown and a few others will play Thursday night at Pittsburgh because they have something to prove with roster cuts coming.

While Rivera said he ''doesn't feel the need'' to bring in receiving help from outside of the organization right now, he wouldn't rule out doing so in the future depending on who becomes available in free agency.

Ginn is hoping it doesn't come to that. He believes the answers are already on the roster.

''We have a great group of talent here but we have to use it,'' Ginn said. ''We are all good in our own ways. I think we're all number one (receivers). We have to go out and play like number ones.''

Funchess is the guy the Panthers really want to see emerge, but Rivera acknowledges the team simply hasn't seen enough of him to get a good evaluation. He missed a large chunk of training camp and hasn't played in the preseason due to the hamstring problem.

''The more he practices, the more he gets on the field, the more we'll know about that role,'' Rivera said.

Rivera said Cotchery, who started opposite Benjamin last year, tweaked his groin against New England but is expected to be ready for the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept 13. It's unclear if he gets his starting job back to begin the season.

''For now we're sticking with this group of guys. You never know who's out there,'' Rivera said.

NOTES: Rivera said backup defensive back Colin Jones's groin injury is ''worse than a tweak'' and will see a specialist. ... Defensive end Charles Johnson and defensive tackle Kawann Short will see their first action of the preseason against the Steelers.


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