The Panthers have clinched a playoff spot after their comeback victory over the Buccaneers in Week 16. However, the team’s receiving corps has taken another hit as Damiere Byrd has been placed on injured reserve due to a lower leg injury, according to Bryan Strickland of Panthers.com (Twitter link). The team will likely activate defensive end Charles Johnson from suspension in a corresponding move, reports Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).
Byrd, 24, was just starting to cement himself as the Panthers clear number two wide receiver before suffering the injury. In his second season in the NFL, Byrd had caught nine passes in Weeks 14 and 15, including two touchdowns. He had also solidified himself as the team’s primary kickoff return threat, having already returned one kick for a touchdown this season.
Without Byrd, head coach Ron Rivera will likely have to use running back Christian McCaffrey even more in the return game. On the offensive side of the ball, Rivera told Strickland that “it’s tough, but Kaelin Clay has stepped up.” The team also has wideouts Brenton Bersin and Mose Frazier to pick up more snaps in Byrd’s absence. In addition, the team will also get Russell Shepard from a shoulder injury next week.
Person further tweets that the Panthers will not be signing a free agent wideout to replace Byrd, instead opting to go with what the team has now going into the postseason.
The news certainly puts more pressure on the likes of Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen, who will likely see most of the targets when Cam Newton opts to throw the ball down the field. The Panthers have a chance to take the NFC South with a win and a Saints loss in Week 17.
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