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Nine takeaways from Wednesday's OTAs, minicamps

It's no secret: The Carolina Panthers are hurting for help at wide receiver.

With Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. out the door, quarterback Cam Newton has heard the whispers about his stripped-down cast of wideouts.

"Those guys have already accepted the challenge," Newton said Wednesday. "You don't have to go in there and tell those guys, 'Hey, you're projected the sorriest receivers in the NFL.' We already know."

After Cam called the criticism a "slap" in the face, a minor debate broke out here in the newsroom: Do the Panthers truly boast (boast?) the thinnest group of pass-catchers?

By our estimation, they do, but two challengers are pressing for that dishonor:

Panthers


Coming off a season that saw Newton toss a career-high 24 touchdowns, he'll be hard-pressed to repeat the feat with Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood. Young Tavarres King has promise, but there's undue pressure on rookie Kelvin Benjamin to explode upon arrival.

Browns


It begins and ends with the likely suspension hanging over Josh Gordon. If he's out for the year, the cupboard is bare. Behind the exciting but unproven Andrew Hawkins, a cavalcade of aging veterans -- Miles Austin, Nate Burleson and Anthony Armstrong -- would struggle to make most rosters in 2014. If Gordon receives a lesser ban, though, we'll see this group through new eyes.

Chiefs


Kansas City baffled us when they ignored the wideout position in the draft. In a risky show of faith in the existing depth chart, the Chiefs are rolling into the season with Donnie Avery and Junior Hemingway behind a No. 1 in Dwayne Bowe who accounted for just 673 yards last season and turns 30 in September.

During an era when the passing game is coursing into new frontiers, these three teams will be challenged to keep up in 2014.

Here are eight more takeaways from Wednesday's OTAs and mandatory minicamps:

2. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians raised eyebrows Tuesday when he told reporters that young Justin Bethel has the potential to someday become Arizona's best cornerback, per the team's official website. That's a tall order with Patrick Peterson on the payroll, but there's no arguing Bethel's athleticism. Pro Football Focus graded the third-year defender as the NFL's finest special teamer in 2013.

3. Terrelle Pryor is no lock to make the Seahawks, but Seattle is seeing growth out of the athletic freak they acquired from the Raiders for a seventh-round pick. "I heard the Seahawks believe he's made as much progress as anyone over the past month," longtime Seahawks scribe Danny O'Neill said Tuesday on ESPN Seattle. "In fact, they feel there's been a breakthrough of sorts for him."

4. The Colts announced Wednesday that defensive end Fili Moala has been placed on injured reserve with the partially torn ACL he sustained during OTAs. It's not good news for an Indy defensive front already looking thin up front.

5. Where in the world is Jermaine Gresham? According to Field Yates of ESPN.com, the Bengals tight end has been kept off the field because he's recovering from hernia surgery. There's no timetable for his return, but we fully expect him to be ready for camp.

6. We refuse to put much stock in June drills, but word out of Chicago is that 2013 second-round draft pick Jon Bostic is "making a strong impression" at middle linebacker. That's ill news for veteran D.J. Williams, who played a starring role last autumn for the team's defense.

7. Another name to monitor in the Windy City: Brock Vereen. The rookie safety again spent practice with the first team on Wednesday and is emerging as a surprise riser at Bears camp, per Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.

8. After Mike Pettine told reporters that Josh Gordon doesn't always hustle as much as he should in practice, the Browns coach told NFL Media's Aditi Kinkhabwala that his comments were "overblown." Not overblown: The challenge facing Johnny Manziel if the All-Pro wideout is banished into the wilderness.

9. Veteran tight end Tony Scheffler is calling it quits. Let's do the same with this roundup.

The end to the latest "Around The League Podcast" is full of shock and awe.

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