CHARLOTTE – Panthers coach Ron Rivera is anxious to see if Domenik Hixon or Armanti Edwards can step up and be the team’s third wide receiver.
He’ll begin to find out this Sunday when the Panthers visit the Buffalo Bills.
Rivera said Hixon and Edwards are fully recovered from their hamstring injuries and will be active this week, along with Ted Ginn Jr., who worked as the team’s No. 3 receiver last week against Seattle but caught just one pass for 10 yards.
Hixon didn’t play last week against Seattle, and Edwards was limited to one play.
The Panthers are in need of more weapons to complement five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Greg Olsen after being limited to 119 net yards passing in the 12-7 loss to the Seahawks.
Hixon, an eight-year NFL veteran, entered training camp as the favorite to win the job behind starting Smith and Brandon LaFell.
The Panthers signed the former New York Giant to fill the No. 3 receiver spot after losing wide receiver Louis Murphy via free agency. But Hixon has struggled with hamstring issues since the middle of August and only appeared in one preseason game.
Hixon said he was ready to play this past Sunday and “disappointed” the Panthers decided to be cautious and deactivate him.
“I felt ready to go last week and I’m ready to go this week,” said Hixon, who caught 39 passes for 567 yards and two touchdowns last season with the Giants.
“I feel like I can help this offense, so I’m real anxious. Whatever role they ask me to play, I’m willing to play for them.”
Edwards is a local favorite given he played at nearby Appalachian State but his conversion from college quarterback to NFL receiver has been slow. Despite flashes of promise during practices, Edwards has just five career receptions in four seasons with the Panthers.
“You would love to have a clear cut third receiver for sure,” Rivera said. “At the same time one of those three guys can have a breakout game and you go, ‘Oh, he’s just established himself as the number three (receiver)’ and then next week the other guy may break out.
“I think it’s good that what we have a choice in terms of which one to put on the field because they each have some different skills.”
Rivera said Ginn has the speed to “blow the top off a defense,” giving the Panthers a deep threat they need. He likes Edwards’ ability to work underneath the coverage and believes the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Hixon provides a big target for quarterback Cam Newton.
Bills coach Doug Marrone believes this will be a good test for his defense, a unit that surrendered 288 yards passing and two touchdowns on Sunday against New England.
He’s familiar with the Panthers, having worked in the same division as an assistant coach with the New Orleans Saints.
“They have a lot of weapons, obviously on offense,” Marrone said. “They have a lot of playmaking ability.”