The Carolina Panthers lost star receiver, Steve Smith to a leg injury vs. the New Orleans Saints which meant No. 2 receiver and former LSU standout Brandon LaFell needed to elevate his game with Smith sidelined and give Cam Newton a reliable target in the passing game.
Without Smith drawing coverage toward his side of the field, LaFell saw coverage roll his direction and the former third round pick in his fourth season in the NFL was invisible. The Panthers escaped with a 17-13 comeback win in the final minute, but the 6-2, 210-pound LaFell had one reception for 13 yards and one big drop.
Cam Newton is missing that No. 2 target opposite Smith and soon the 34-year old Smith will be gone too, so unless LaFell turns it on in the postseason, his time in Carolina could be coming to a close.
“I definitely want to stay here,” LaFell tells the Charlotte Observer, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. “I wish they would have extended me already but they haven’t. It is what it is. I’m going to keep going out here and busting my tail every week, keep helping this team win games and hopefully at the end of the year they offer me another deal.”
The Panthers have been waiting for the light to come on for LaFell for the past few seasons, but at this point I think it’s safe to say he is what he is, and that’s not a No. 2 receiver. He may be a No. 2 receiver for a team with much lower expectations, but for a team with playoff aspirations, he’s simply not good enough.
Carolina may want to invest in a wide receiver early in the 2014 NFL Draft, and luckily for the Panthers this year’s class at receiver is a deep one. If Smith is out beyond this game, the Panthers offense is going to struggle to put up points.