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Captain Munnerlyn took one glance at the Carolina Panthers wide receivers' 40-yard times and couldn't believe what he saw.

The veteran cornerback has never seen such a compilation of speed amassed at one position on a roster in any of his 10 NFL training camps.

"Oh man Authentic James Daniels Jersey , we got some fast receivers," Munnerlyn said. "I was like, 'Wow, almost everyone runs a 4.4 or lower. That's crazy.' We have some speed on this team 鈥?and we probably needed it."

That's an understatement.

The Panthers offense stagnated last season as quarterback Cam Newton found himself with no deep threats after Ted Ginn Jr. left to sign with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent and youngsters Curtis Samuel and Damierre Byrd went down with injuries.

The trickledown effect of not having anyone to stretch the field, combined with three-time 1,000 yard receiving tight end Greg Olsen missing most of the season with a foot injury made Newton's job last season extremely difficult. It also played havoc with the team's running game as opposing defenses were able to walk an extra defender into the box. Carolina still finished 11-5 and earned a wild card despite finishing 19th in offense but lacked the firepower to make a run in the NFC playoffs.

General manager Marty Hurney wasn't about to let that happen again.

The Panthers upgraded their speed at wide receiver by trading for Torrey Smith, signing free agent Jarius Wright and selecting the elusive D.J. Moore from Maryland in the first round of the NFL draft.

Smith has averaged 16.4 yards per catch during his seven NFL seasons with the Ravens, 49ers and, most recently, the Super Bowl champion Eagles. Wright joins the Panthers after six seasons with the Vikings, where he worked under new Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner and averaged 13.3 yards per catch. Moore caught 80 passes last season at Maryland and earned a reputation as a receiver who makes defenders miss and piles up yards after the catch.

With Samuel and Byrd coming back from injuries, Newton should have no shortage of options when it comes to stretching the field.

"I think we would probably have the fastest track team in the NFL for sure Jessie Bates III Color Rush Jersey ," Wright said. "We got a 1A and a 1B team. That's how fast our receiving corps is."

Coach Ron Rivera is quietly optimistic.

He said the Panthers "have some speed that we haven't had in a while" at the wide receiver and defensive back positions.

"I think that is a good thing for us," Rivera said. "We can be a fast team."

All of that is good news for Newton, who was limited to 22 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions in 2017 鈥?two years after throwing 35 TD passes and 10 interceptions while earning league MVP honors and leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl.

The logical thinking is if defenses have to honor the deep threat it will allow Olsen and No. 1 receiver Devin Funchess to work underneath the coverage 鈥?and also free up rushing lanes for running back Christian McCaffrey and Newton, the team's leading rusher last season.

Funchess may not be the fastest wide receiver on the roster, but he figures to play a huge role in the passing game.

He moved over to the "X'' position, or No. 1 receiver spot, during the middle of last season after the Panthers abruptly traded former No. 1 draft pick Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills.

Funchess and Benjamin were considered similar possession-type receivers, and Hurney said at the time he wanted to get more speed on the field.

Funchess responded with some solid games in Benjamin's absence, and finished the season with 63 receptions for 840 yards and eight touchdowns despite routinely seeing double coverage. He'll have plenty of motivation to improve on that production given that he'll become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

"I focus on strictly football and that part has nothing to do with me," Funchess said. "If (the Panthers) want to (get a deal done), they can. ... I'm out here to play football, work with coach Turner http://www.brownsauthorizedshops.com/aut...ard-jersey , work with the rest of the wide receivers, and talk a little trash to (Panthers linebacker) Thomas Davis."

Wright likes what he sees so far from the wideouts.

"I think we have one of the best groups in the NFL," Wright said. "We have so many guys that bring a lot of different things to the game. But every guy can run out there. With so many playmakers, an experienced offensive coordinator and an MVP quarterback like Cam Newton our offense should be rolling."

The Arizona Coyotes don’t have much to play for, given they have the worst record in the Western Conference and have long been eliminated from the playoff race.

Except maybe a bit of pride.

It showed Wednesday night as Kevin Connauton scored twice to lead the Coyotes over the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights 3-2.

It marked Arizona’s first victory over the expansion Golden Knights in the teams’ fifth and final game this season.

”It was a good complete game for us,” Connauton said. ”It’s big, I mean right now we’re focused on building for next year. We still have a group here that has a lot of pride and that is gonna play hard right to the end.”

Richard Panik also scored for the Coyotes, and Antti Raanta improved to 18-16-6 by making 27 saves.

”We knew that we had lost all the games against this team and we wanted to show that we’re not that bad a team,” Raanta said. ”Everybody knows that we’re not gonna go to the playoffs, but we want to show that we can beat anybody in this league. A little bit of a better start (this season) we could actually be in the hunt for a playoff spot.”

The Coyotes began the season 0-10-1 and were 9-27-5 heading into 2018, but now they’re on a 15-7-2 roll, including an impressive 4-1 victory at Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay on Monday night.

”It was a huge thing to come from Tampa and start working again Cheap Jessie Bates III Jersey , it was a big thing for the team for sure,” Raanta said. ”It’s showing to the fans and showing to the league that we can beat anybody in this league when we are playing like we played today and in Tampa. It’s a confidence boost for sure.”

Erik Haula and Alex Tuch each scored power-play goals for the playoff-bound Golden Knights. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots.

Vegas is in a 7-6-3 rut and holds a five-point lead over surging San Jose for first place in the Pacific Division. The Sharks were idle Wednesday and visit Vegas on Saturday night. The Golden Knights are 27-10-2 at home this season.

The Golden Knights continued to struggle at the start of games, getting outshot by Arizona in the first period 15-5.

Vegas has been outshot 41-22 in the first period over its past three games.

”It’s bothering me a lot,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said of his team’s sluggish starts. ”First game of our road trip in San Jose we had an unbelievable first period and the last three since then it’s been chasing the game every game. That’s three in a row and we gotta fix it. We gotta be better, we gotta be more prepared for those starts and get our game ready.”

The Coyotes opened the scoring when Connauton found the loose puck after a deflection in front of the crease and backhanded it in a wide-open net.

Vegas tied it after James Neal took advantage of a turnover and fed Haula for a one-timer.

With a little more than three minutes left in the first period, Arizona rookie Clayton Keller stole the puck, maneuvered around the defense and served an attacking Panik, whose backhand beat Fleury.

Keller, who leads the team in scoring, continued a red-hot March and has now recorded a point in 10 straight games. Keller’s 18 points this month is the most by a rookie, while his 39 assists and 62 points this season are also team records by a rookie.

Tuch deflected Jonathan Marchessault’s slap shot late in the second period to knot the game at 2, but moments later Connauton scored his second goal when his shot from the point made its way through the five-hole.

”It was big because obviously this is a great hockey team we’re playing. This is a tough building to play in Cheap Customized Cincinnati Bengals Jerseys , a loud building,” Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said. ”We held our own, you gotta give our team credit. It’s a tough road trip. I like the way some of these guys are buying in. You do the right things, good things happen.”

Arizona, which is 6-3-1 in its last 10 road games, played its fifth game of a six-game road trip that started in Buffalo, and continued through Carolina, Florida, Tampa and Vegas. The Coyotes finish their road trip tomorrow in Los Angeles.

NOTES: Arizona is on a winning run of 16-1-1 when holding opponents to two goals or fewer. … Fleury remains one win away from moving into sole possession of 11th on the NHL’s career wins list. … Neal is two games shy from his 700th career game. … Marchessault is two games away from his 200th career contest.

UP NEXT

Arizona: Visits Los Angeles on Thursday night.

Vegas: Hosts St. Louis on Friday night.



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