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Carolina Panthers plan: Get Domenik Hixon, Armanti Edwards, Ted Ginn Jr. into the offense

Carolina Panthers at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. Sunday, WJZY

By Tom Sorensen

It’s almost as if Domenik Hixon is mythical. Sightings are infrequent. There he is on the sideline, on the bench, on the inactive list, his hamstring injury rendering him part-time.

If you follow football, you’re aware of Hixon’s work with the New York Giants. Last season he caught 39 passes for 567 yards and two touchdowns. Hixon was the number three receiver behind Victor Cruz and, out of Independence High and North Carolina, Hakeem Nicks.

For perspective, Louis Murphy, Carolina’s No. 3 receiver last season, caught 25 passes for 336 yards and one touchdown.

Hixon, who turns 29 next month, signed with Carolina as a free agent in April. Because of the hamstring he missed most of training camp and all but one preseason game. He was not active last week when the Panthers lost their opener to Seattle.

Hixon, however, appears real. Lean, fast and 6-2, he stands in front of his locker this week after practice, much of it with the scout team.

I ask him to describe what being unable to play is like.

“Let me give you a good analogy,” Hixon says.

Eighteen seconds later he says: “It’s like a little kid waiting for Christmas. And you wake up and Christmas isn’t there. You wake up again and Christmas isn’t there. I’m just waiting for Christmas.”

That’s a good analogy.

“That’s the best one I can come up with,” Hixon says.

Although the high is expected to be in the upper 60s in Buffalo Sunday and snow is not forecast, Christmas should come at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Panther coach Ron Rivera says he would like to give Hixon – and receivers Armanti Edwards and Ted Ginn. Jr. – 15 to 20 “good snaps.”

“We’d like to get everybody on the field if they’re ready to go,” Rivera says.

It might not be possible to offer the three potential No. 3 receivers as many snaps as Rivera would like, especially if one them gets hot.

But I like Rivera’s theory because it implies that quarterback Cam Newton will throw forward passes.

In their loss to Seattle last week the Panthers ran 26 times and passed 25. Most of the passes were short and safe. Ginn caught one pass for 10 yards. Other than Smith and Ginn, no wide receiver caught a pass.

Edwards, also coming off a hamstring injury, was in for one play, a Newton run. To Edwards’ credit, Newton ran to Edwards’ side of the field.

Against Carolina, Seattle’s Russell Wilson completed 25 passes to eight receivers, four of them wide receivers. To be honest, Seattle had to pass; it couldn’t run.

To be yet even more honest, the Panthers are neither designed nor equipped to be a grind-it-out offense.

Edwards and Ginn consistently made plays in camp, Ginn in preseason games, and Hixon has been solid when healthy.

Ginn, says Rivera, extends a defense with his speed.

Edwards, says Rivera, is adept at catching the ball beneath the zone with defenders around him.

Hixon, says Rivera, offers a big target.

Hixon earned credibility with Eli Manning in New York. How does he earn it with his coaches and quarterback in Carolina?

“I just prove throughout practice I’m ready to play,” Hixon says.

What do you offer?

“Being the third wide receiver is probably one of the tougher positions because you may not get as many balls thrown your way,” says Hixon. “So when you do you have to make it count. That’s something I’m still working on, being consistent and being counted on.”

Something else the Panthers should count on: Proving they are a big-play offense.

Last week, it was a myth.

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