Cotchery on target despite lack of targets


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jerricho Cotchery has only one more catch in three preseason games than he had during an offseason cruise that delayed the Carolina Panthers signing him.

That doesn't concern Carolina coach Ron Rivera.

Even though Cotchery has just one catch for 8 yards, Rivera says the former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver is on target for the team's plans.

“Go back at look at the targets, that’s the big thing,” Rivera said as the Panthers prepare for Thursday night's preseason finale at Pittsburgh. “How many targets were there? As long as there’s not 10 targets and one catch. Everything he and Jason Avant have done for us is exactly what we’re looking for.''

Rivera mentioned Avant because the former Philadelphia standout is another 31-year-old receiver signed to bring veteran leadership to replace Steve Smith, who was released in March.

Avant has one catch for 25 yards, but he's been targeted only twice. Cotchery has been targeted only three times.

“We’re looking for a very consistent football player, guys who run good routes, know where they need to be, handle things, control things and help in the classroom on and off the field,'' Rivera said. "That’s what those two guys bring.”

Cotchery isn't concerned. He reminded there have been other preseasons in which he wasn't targeted often but had good regular seasons.

He's right. Cotchery had three catches on six targets during the 2013 preseason at Pittsburgh. He went on to catch 46 passes, 10 for touchdowns. In 2006, when he had a career-best 82 catches for six touchdowns with the New York Jets, he had only six catches for 56 yards during the preseason.

"I don't put too much stock in it as far as what your numbers look like, because I've seen guys catch 100 yards every game in the preseason and then in the regular season you wonder where the production is," Cotchery said. "[Preseason] is a focus of just getting better individually and staying on top of your assignments."

Cotchery believes he's done that, so he's not worried about making a big impression in front of the Pittsburgh crowd that cheered him the past three seasons.

Don't look for Cotchery or Avant to rack up big numbers against the Steelers. The Panthers are comfortable with them as their Nos. 2 and 3 receivers behind rookie Kelvin Benjamin. In addition, starting quarterback Cam Newton is out with a fractured rib.

More focus will be on getting Brenton Bersin, Philly Brown and Tavarres King more opportunities to get comfortable as the fourth, fifth and sixth receivers.

One reason Carolina included receivers Marvin McNutt, Kealoha Pilares, Toney Clemons and Tiquan Underwood in the first wave of cuts was to get Bersin, Brown and King more repetitions in games and practice.

"I'm not worried about Cotch, I'm not worried about Jason Avant,'' Rivera said. "But guys like Philly and Bersin and Tavarres and Kelvin have to get reps. If you have a big group, they're not going to get reps.''