Panthers WR Shi Smith set for an increased role moving forward

·2 min read

Of the 11 players they selected in the 2021 NFL draft, the Carolina Panthers scooped themselves up two wide receivers—second-rounder Terrace Marshall Jr. and sixth-rounder Shi Smith. But who would’ve thought, a little over a year later, that it’d be the latter who was getting more opportunities than the former?

Probably no one. But that hasn’t stopped Smith from working his way into the offense and now—with returner Andre Roberts set to miss a few months on the injured reserve—into a premier special teams role.

Carolina’s special teams coordinator Chris Tabor spoke with reporters before practice on Thursday. When asked if he’s confident in Smith taking over for Roberts, a move head coach Matt Rhule alluded to earlier in the week, Tabor said Smith’s increased exposure has helped lead to his increased role.

“He’s been gettin’ a lot of catches,” Tabor stated. “And I think it’s just like anything. I know it’s very cliché-ish, but it is—it’s next man up. He did it in preseason games, he’s doing it out of practice and, I think the other thing, he’s playing a lot of offense. And I think he’s getting comfortable out on the field.”

Smith was one of three wideouts, along with DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson, to see that field this past Sunday. He accumulated 41 offensive snaps, which accounted for 77 percent of the unit’s presence in Week 1.

The second-year pass catcher used that time to amass one catch for 12 yards over three targets. Marshall Jr., on the other hand, didn’t leave the sideline that afternoon.

While that hopefully changes for Marshall Jr.—he’ll be, most likely, watching two of his fellow 2021 draftees fill in for Roberts at the Meadowlands. So, as Rhule also mentioned, expect running back Chuba Hubbard to take over kick return duties as Smith tries his hand on punts this weekend.

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Story originally appeared on Panthers Wire