Panthers’ undrafted rookie receivers hope to use exhibition games to stand out

08/06/2014 9:14 PM

08/07/2014 1:10 AM

Wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown knows what he needs to do in exhibitions to make the Carolina Panthers’ final roster.

“Score touchdowns,” Brown said with a laugh. “A lot of them.”

Receiver Marcus Lucas wants to be consistent, transferring his solid play from Wofford College’s practice field to Bank of America Stadium.

Both players are undrafted rookies vying for one of the last wide receiver spots on the roster or practice squad, but the similarities end there. Brown is a small, speedy receiver who can also be a punt and kickoff returner. Lucas is a big, physical receiver that has impressed the coaches when there’s more hitting involved.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said while there’s a pecking order for receivers two weeks into camp, the coaches won’t know exactly who has separated themselves until the exhibition games.

“What we’re looking for is the live action. Once we get to that point in training camp, you can really identify it,” Rivera said. “Right now you can say, oh, these are our top six guys, but the action hasn’t been game speed. That would be unfair. We have an idea but nothing is in stone, nothing is for sure.”

Veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant and rookie Kelvin Benjamin are locks to make the team, and Charlotte Latin graduate Brenton Bersin seems to safely be on the final 53-man roster as well. That leaves Tavarres King, Kealoha Pilares and Tiquan Underwood on the next tier battling for the final spots.

Even if there are no spots for Lucas or Brown on the final roster, one of them could make the team’s practice squad.

At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Lucas is one of several big pass-catchers on Carolina’s roster. On Tuesday he caught three passes from Derek Anderson during a team-drill drive, and Wednesday he continued his solid play without a drop.

“He was OK (early in camp), then all of a sudden we put the pads on and he started to show up,” Rivera said. “Some guys have done that. You put the pads on and some guys disappear. You put the pads on and some guys show up, and he’s one of the guys that has shown up.”

A former Missouri receiver, Lucas had six to eight teams call him after the draft, but he picked the Panthers because they were without their top four receivers from the previous season.

Lucas admitted he struggled in organized team activities and minicamp, but that was his adjustment period.

“I was still learning the playbook and things like that. I was second guessing myself,” Lucas said. “Now I can just go out there and play and know what I’m doing each play. I hear the play call and now I’m checking the safety and I’m doing all these different things now. You can be more crafty and not just running the route.”

Brown is five inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter than Lucas, but he offers a more versatile option for Carolina. A former Buckeye, Brown has been one of three players taking punt returns. However, he has struggled with drops throughout camp, and he had one inside the 10-yard line Wednesday.

He and Underwood are two of the fastest receivers on the team, and Brown showed his athleticism Wednesday on a crossing route that saw him leap over safety Tom Nelson and snag a ball out of the air while getting both feet in bounds.

For both Lucas and Brown, exhibition games will be make-or-break. They hope their play from practice translates.

“I’ll just make plays when it comes my way,” Brown said. “Everything you do, whether the ball’s coming to you or not, is on film. Even when you’re not getting the ball, always be open or blocking down field, doing the little things.”

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