Feeling Smith's pain
by Mike Harmon
September 13, 2004
With the Panthers unable to initiate any kind of running game (Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster combined for 38 yards on 12 carries), it's hard to gauge how this offense will evolve. The man who will roll up to the No. 1 spot in Smith's absence, Muhsin Muhammad, was on the receiving end of a Jake Delhomme pass for a 30-yard touchdown on the very next play. Muhammad saw eight passes on the night, including one from Smith on some early trickery by John Fox. He caught four balls for 65 yards in the contest and goes from a fourth receiver on most fantasy rosters to a solid No. 2 play.
For the final five minutes of the contest, special teams standout Karl Hankton saw time in the slot with the cagey veteran Ricky Proehl moving into the No. 2 role. While catching only two passes on four throws from Delhomme for 56 yards, Proehl garnered a lot of attention from the Green Bay secondary. If your league rewards you for receptions, Proehl will be of value to you with Smith out. Hankton's ascent to the rotation will be short-lived. To replace the lost speed from Smith, watch for John Fox to work rookie Keary Colbert into the rotation in Week 2 to stretch the defense. He's on my Watch list, as this guy has home run potential every time he touches the ball.
The loss of Smith also has repercussions in the backfield. With their No. 1 receiver down (Smith is the 12th WR drafted on average in Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football PLUS leagues), the Panthers will need to utilize DeShaun Foster's pass-catching ability out of the backfield to complement a lackluster receiving corps. He is a better receiver than his counterpart Davis, hauling in four catches in Monday's loss to Green Bay. Look for his touches to rise as well.
Jake Delhomme was inconsistent in his first outing since the Super Bowl and will feel more pressure without the speedy Smith, particularly if Stephen Davis reprises his role as The Invisible Man. Smith was a worker, continuing to work his defender until the whistle. Only Proehl currently maintains that discipline, and that will be a detriment to Delhomme. He remains a fantasy backup for the time being.
And with that, it's time to crunch some numbers for the week that was and to prep for Week 2. Happy New Year!
Updated on Tuesday, Sep 14, 2004 2:28 am, EDT