One of the biggest training camp questions for the Carolina Panthers is figuring out who will be the top wide receiver on the team. After trading away D.J. Moore for the rights to select Bryce Young, Carolina tried to fill his shoes by throwing a bunch of darts at the position. Right now, Adam Thielen, D.J. Chark, Terrace Marshall, and Jonathan Mingo all have various shots of being the top target, but who will actually earn the role in Week 1?
Carolina Panthers Training Camp Battles: Who Will Be the Top Wide Receiver?
The Case For Adam Thielen
After spending the entirety of his career with the Minnesota Vikings, Adam Thielen is the odds-on favorite to lead the Panthers wide receivers in targets. While he isn’t the player he once was, Thielen proved last year that he can still command a decent amount of looks. Starting opposite Justin Jefferson, the wideout finished the season with a 17% target share while averaging 1.15 yards per route run and finishing the year with the 68th-best PFF grade out of 113 eligible players.
Entering his age-33 season, Thielen is starting to show some signs of slowing down, as all of his per-game numbers took a bit of a dive in 2022. However, he’s still a valuable red zone threat and he will likely see a higher target share in 2023 seeing as he’s no longer sharing the field with arguably the best receiver in the game. While he might not be a superstar, he can be a valuable security blanket for a young quarterback like Bryce Young.
The Case For D.J. Chark
D.J. Chark might not get the ball too often, but he possesses a home run threat that is far beyond what any of the other Panthers wide receivers can realistically provide. The wideout recorded 16.7 yards per reception last season with the Detroit Lions, and while he only earned a 13.8% target share, he made the most of what opportunities came his way.
Chark can be a viable deep threat for the Panthers offense, but the wide receiver will need to learn to stay on the field. Chark has only played in 15 games over the past two seasons and has yet to play a full season in his career.
DJ Chark can low key ball out. Hoping he has a good year with Bryce. 🦈💯 pic.twitter.com/g17SDP5VML
— 𓃮 𝘾𝙖𝙧𝙤𝙡𝙞𝙣𝙖 𝙋𝙖𝙣𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙋𝙧𝙞𝙙𝙚 𓃮 (@CPPfanfromtheD) June 8, 2023
The Case For Terrace Marshall
After a rookie season to forget, Terrace Marshall finally showed some signs of life down the stretch in 2022. Taking over for Robbie Anderson, the former second-round pick averaged a solid 38 yards per game from Week 5 onwards, and he did that with some pretty poor quarterback play. Marshall has also impressed in Panthers OTA’s, so perhaps he can be even better in 2023. However, while he has the raw talent, he still only has 628 receiving yards to his name, so he still needs to prove he’s capable of being the Panthers top wide receiver when the actual games start.
The Case For Jonathan Mingo
Jonathan Mingo easily has the widest range of outcomes of everyone in the Carolina Panthers wide recevier room. On the one hand, the 6′-2″, 220-pound wideout certainly has the build and athletic profile to thrive at the next level. He already knows how to use his size to his advantage, as he excels in contested situations and could provide a much-needed physical presence. However, he struggles to consistently separate and his on-field play doesn’t match his athletic testing. Additionally, from an analytics standpoint, the fact that he’s a late declare and only has one year of impressive production does not bode well for his future. Perhaps he can defy the odds and become a crucial part of the passing attack in Year 1, but that’s a dangerous bet to make.
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