Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ginn’s explosiveness pays off

By Lorenzo Reyes

December 13, 2015

CHARLOTTE – Ted Ginn Sr. took the seat normally reserved for his son.

A crowd of reporters started to gather, some with confused faces because of the middle-aged man wearing an oversized No. 19 Panthers jersey, seated in front of the locker bearing his son’s name. The Panthers (13-0) had just demolished the Atlanta Falcons 38-0. The room was loose as Panthers players faced a fresh wave of questions asking them, again, about the possibility of going undefeated.

Junior showed up.

“Boy, you’re just too quick for ‘em,” father told son, who was fresh out of the shower.

All Ginn Jr. could do was flash a smile.

This may scare some Panthers fans, but the most important player not named Cam Newton for the Carolina offense might be Ted Ginn Jr., the electric wideout capable of going off for a touchdown on a moment’s notice.

Sunday’s rout showed exactly why.

One week after he dropped two pivotal passes but also hauled in two touchdowns in a close victory against the New Orleans Saints, Ginn demonstrated his value as one of the NFL’s most dangerous pass catchers when he can play error-free. Known as a boom-or-bust player, Ginn set the tone for Carolina on Sunday, scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter.

They were the only two catches he had all game, but they were bombs, one for 74 yards and the other for 46. Two plays, 120 yards, 14 points.

“Ted is gaining confidence,” quarterback Cam Newton said. “(Offensive coordinator Mike) Shula is gaining confidence. This offense is gaining confidence. I’m gaining confidence. When you have a team like that that is peaking, you really don’t look for anybody to make plays. You start making plays. You saw out there today. We have a saying on offense: ‘Let’s take turns making plays.’ Ted only needed two catches to display that.”

Ginn now has eight touchdowns on the season and four in his last two contests. He gives the Panthers – along with Newton’s rocket arm that can fling passes down the field – a deep threat who boasts unrivaled speed. And with the Panthers potentially facing tight games in the playoffs, Ginn’s explosive ability is a prized asset. But danger lurks with Ginn in the form of drops.

Ginn entered Week 14 tied for second-most dropped passes in the NFL with eight. Last week in New Orleans, it almost cost his team the win.

“You have to give hats off to Cam because he trusts those guys and he knows they will come back and make a play for him,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “Teddy is a great example today. I’m very proud of what Teddy did today – came back like nothing had happened.”

The Panthers became the eighth team in the Super Bowl era and the 9th team in NFL history to start the season 13-0. They clinched a first-round bye. Home-field advantage throughout the postseason is next, provided the Panthers take care of opponents on a favorable remaining schedule.

An unblemished regular season campaign may be attainable, too. Having a consistent and reliable deep threat will go a long way toward reaching those goals.

Ginn's current value is at all-time high after uneven outings in his previous eight seasons (with the Arizona Cardinals, Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins). Prior this season, Ginn had caught just 11 career touchdowns.

In fact, if you take away Ginn’s 2013 season – also with Carolina – during which he registered five touchdown catches, Ginn would only have six other scoring grabs.

Everyone else in the league viewed him as a return specialist. Here, he has a quarterback who can get him the ball, and an offense that allows him to use his talents – mainly his speed.

“Having Ted here, it means you’re one play away from scoring,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “His presence out there is hard for people to account for.”

Ginn, for his part, credits teammates for his career revival.

Added Ginn: “I give all my success to Cam Newton. Without him, there is no Ted Ginn. I can’t say that vice versa, but we really, really have a nice thing going right now.”

That’s high praise, but Ginn is partly right. With the exception of Carson Palmer in Arizona, Ginn never really had a quarterback who could consistently feed him deep passes. But on the receiver-rich Cardinals in 2014, Ginn was never a factor in Arizona’s offense.

In Carolina, there’s a perfect combination of quarterback, aggressive scheme and desperate need for a weapon on the outside.

“Well, yeah,” Ginn said, when asked if the go route is his favorite. “Anytime I can showcase my speed and put a stretch on the defense, it’s always a good thing – no matter if I catch the ball or not.”

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