|Carter hopes to build off big game, solidify spot with Panthers|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 22 November 2007 09:27|
He needed to, because time is running out for the often invisible Carolina Panthers receiver.
With his contract set to expire at the end of the season, Carter has to do something to give the Panthers a reason to keep the former fifth-round pick, who has speed and size, but few big plays and plenty of dropped passes in the NFL.
His performance at Green Bay was different: five catches for 132 yards and a touchdown.
``These next six games are going to be big, I guess, from a contract standpoint,'' Carter said. ``But you can't think of it like that. You have to take each game and make plays when your chance is called.''
The Panthers had hoped Carter and Keary Colbert, also taken in the 2004 draft, would grow into reliable receivers opposite Steve Smith.
It hasn't worked. Carter spent his rookie season on injured reserve, then caught only 17 balls the next two seasons. Colbert had 43 catches in his first three seasons, and the lack of productivity led Carolina to sign Keyshawn Johnson last season.
After drafting Dwayne Jarrett in the second round this year, the Panthers released Johnson. But Jarrett has struggled to learn the playbook and adjust to the NFL, leaving Carter and Colbert as Carolina's receiving options after Smith.
Colbert won the starting job in the preseason, but has been far from spectacular, with 29 catches for 303 yards and no touchdowns. Carter caught two touchdown passes in Carolina's season-opening win at St. Louis, but had only 15 catches over the next seven games. Both have struggled to take advantage of single coverage while Smith is double-teamed.
But when Smith was sidelined last Sunday with a shin injury, Carter started - and shined. The 6-foot-3 deep threat caught a career-long 43-yard pass in the first quarter. He broke that mark in the fourth quarter with a 49-yard catch. He then caught a 5-yard touchdown pass to complete the drive.
For Carter, it was vindication.
``Smitty's by far one of the best receivers in the NFL, but I think sometimes people feel he's a one man show,'' Carter said. ``But there are other receivers, too.''
Only Carter hadn't distinguished himself - until his big day against the Packers.
``Obviously it was a big game. It helps my confidence, but that's something I want to do every week,'' Carter said. ``Sometimes you have to get the opportunities to show what you can do.''
Smith, who practiced for a second straight day Thursday, is likely to return Sunday against New Orleans. It's uncertain if Carter will get the start ahead of Colbert, but he'll get chances.
``He obviously had a good performance and that helps in our decision making,'' coach John Fox said Thursday. ``The key to this thing is being consistent.''
Lack of consistency has been one of the criticisms of Carter, who may need to have a breakout end of the season to be back next year. With Colbert also set to be a free agent, the Panthers may overhaul their receiving corps in hopes of finding somebody to take the pressure off Smith.
Carter still thinks he can be that guy.
``There are always going to be doubters, always going to be people that think somebody's better,'' Carter said. ``But you've got to do what you do when you get on the field.''
Notes: RB DeShaun Foster (toe) and DT Damione Lewis (shoulder) practiced Thursday after sitting out a day earlier. ... CB Chris Gamble, who has a broken right thumb, missed his second straight practice. Richard Marshall would likely start if Gamble can't play. ... The Panthers moved their Thursday afternoon meetings to Friday so players could be with their families after practice ended early in the afternoon.