Dyson’s season-ending injury is a tough blow for the receiving corps to absorb. Dyson was signed to add some explosiveness and speed at the position. All signs pointed to him having a very strong year as a Panther. Unfortunately for him and the club, his impact will not be seen in 2003. There is a possibility that he may return late in the season, but not many quick recoveries are made from Achilles injuries. It will remain to be seen how this latest setback affects Dyson’s career, considering his long injury history. Hopefully he will make a full recovery and remain optimistic because the organization needs his talents on the field.
The loss of Dyson, who was actively competing for a starting spot, definitely thins the roster. Another veteran may be brought in soon (Oronde Gadsen, JJ Stokes, etc) but for now the team will have to move on as is. Many thought Muhammad would be a sure June 1st cap casualty, but now it seems he will be back in the mix for a starting job. Muhammad adds a veteran presence and has experience in the offense. Another wily veteran, Ricky Proehl, will be counted on to move the chains and give the offense consistency out of the slot (something that has been lacking for awhile now).
Steve Smith will most likely fill the other receiver spot with Muhammad probably returning to his. Proehl seems to be best suited for the slot due to his limited speed. Team officials seem very impressed by draftee Walter Young, a seventh round selection. Young has intriguing size (6-5) but is an untested rookie with marginal speed. However, he could develop into a productive player as the team’s 4th wide receiver. The mismatches Young might create on 3rd downs against smaller dime corners should be interesting.
Karl Hankton hasn’t shown much during his tenure with the team and will have to turn some heads in camp if he ever wants playing time. Many young prospects were brought in to fight for the 5th receiver spot. While it’s highly doubtful any will have a serious impact on the passing game (and most will be cut by the season’s first play) the competition might help to add some much needed depth at receiver.
Unfortunate as Dyson’s injury may be, this group of players still should be much better than last year’s edition. 2002’s wide receiver corps was plagued by inconsistency from Smith and non-existent production from the slot receiver. A seasoned Steve Smith, experienced Mushin Muhammad and veteran Ricky Proehl should be enough to keep defenses respecting the forward pass.