SPARTANBURG In a stretch of three plays at Tuesday mornings practice, Panthers backup quarterback Derek Anderson targeted Armanti Edwards as his only receiver.
His first pass went to the third-year receiver for a short gain. The second was intercepted after Edwards failed to turn around to find the ball. The third went for a touchdown.
The former Appalachian State star has impressed coaches enough in training camp to play with the second team at receiver and maintain his starting spot as punt returner, all while fending off a legion of players at both positions.
Armanti has come along very well, coach Ron Rivera said. And the nice thing for Armanti, this is his third full training camp as a wide receiver. So were starting to see what youre looking for in terms of the progress.
Edwards has no catches in his two seasons in the NFL, but that hasnt stopped Anderson from zeroing in on him as one of his main targets.
Its great, Edwards said. Weve been getting a lot of work together in this camp and were getting a better feel with each other.
Edwards was the Panthers only punt returner last year, averaging 5.5 yards per return on 32 tries. Hes competing with second-year receiver Kealoha Pilares for return duties, with Edwards listed first on punt returns and Pilares first on kickoffs.
On Tuesday, he was also inserted for a play at the Wildcat. No. 2 receiver Brandon LaFell took two snaps at the Wildcat (two pass attempts), while Edwards took his snap, rolled left and cut upfield for a decent gain during practice.
Im not even thinking about the depth (at receiver), Edwards said. Im focused on making this team better in any way I can. If they feel I can be a kick returner, punt returner, come in at receiver or whatever, Im there to help.
The Panthers have yet to get a full return on their investment in Edwards, who was selected in the third round of the 2010 draft after Carolina traded what became the top pick in the second round of 2011s draft for him.
And Rivera knows exactly what he wants to see from Edwards this preseason.
Now as we go further into the season and start actually playing the games, weve got to see certain things from Armanti, Rivera said. Weve got to see him make plays in traffic. Weve got to see him make plays when hes getting hit. And hes done a nice job with that so far.
Edwards knows he has to make these exhibitions count to ensure his place on the final roster. He said hes been thinking less, running faster and letting his football instincts take over.
His next test will be Saturday against the Houston Texans in the Panthers first exhibition .
With anybody thats trying to make the team, you have to show what you can do in the game, he said, so no mental mistakes. When the ball comes my way, catch it and do something with it.