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Panthers HC Frank Reich: Laviska Shenault can do some Deebo Samuel-type things

In three NFL seasons, wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. has yet to find the success envisioned when the Jacksonville Jaguars made him a second-round pick.

After two seasons under the 700-scrimmage-yard mark with the Jags, Shenault was traded to the Carolina Panthers just before the start of the 2022 season, when he was primarily used as a gadget, behind-the-line of-scrimmage player.

Now with a new staff under Frank Reich in Carolina, the Panthers hope to unlock that talent.

Reich was asked Thursday at organized team activities how creative the club plans to be with their run-after-catch wideout.

"I think it'll be interesting," Reich responded. "Laviska has been one of those guys out here that's looked good. We'll continue to investigate the different roles he can play. Obviously, even if we have this grandiose plan, which maybe we do, but I wouldn't reveal that here and now, all the different ways you can use him. You look at guys like (49ers wide receiver) Deebo Samuel and stuff like that and say, 'can Laviska do some of that?' Of course he can. We'll experiment with some of that stuff. We'll experiment with some of that stuff. Some of it will get incorporated and some of it won't."

Everyone wants their own Deebo. Unfortunately, there is only one Deebo.

Shenault boasts some of Samuel's run-after-catch ability and could take more handoffs in the Panthers' backfield this season. But his production hasn't matched any sort of Samuel comparison.

Last season, Shenault took his first catch as a Panther at the line of scrimmage for a 67-yard touchdown. It was all downhill from there. In 15 games, the 24-year-old caught 27 of 32 passes for 272 yards and one score. He added nine carries for 65 yards and another TD.

Carolina's offense last season simply didn't use Shenault much, and when the Panthers did, it was at or behind the line of scrimmage -- he earned more YAC (336 yards) than total yards, per Next Gen Stats. He had just three targets (one catch) beyond three yards past the line of scrimmage, per NGS.

Shenault showed some promise as more than a gadget player as a rookie, but the past two seasons hasn't received much of an opportunity to show it.

Perhaps with Reich taking over and a remade Panthers WR group following the trade of D.J. Moore and the signings of veterans Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark, Shenault's chances will increase. There should be opportunities in Carolina's corps for someone to step up. We'll get a better idea during training camp if that someone could be Shenault.

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