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Panthers rookie Devin Funchess set to make first start

Carolina Panthers rookie receiver Devin Funchess is on track to make his first career start Sunday versus the Washington Redskins.

The Panthers listed starting receiver Corey Brown as doubtful to play Sunday with a shoulder injury, meaning in all likelihood the rookie will step into a starting role.

"You guys say it's me stepping up, but I'm just going out there when the ball comes my way," Funchess said Friday, via the Charlotte Observer. "I'm just going out there to catch it. I get however many targets so I just try to make the best of them."

The big-bodied receiver struggled early in the season. In his first seven games, he caught a total of seven passes while compiling six drops, which generated one of the worst drop rates in the NFL.

In the last two games, the tides have turned for the former University of Michigan tight end-turned-receiver. Over that span, he's accumulated five catches for 112 yards, zero drops and a touchdown.

"In college I was thrown into the fire," Funchess said. "Here it's just working my way up and coming off that injury from preseason and just getting into the groove of things."

Replacing Brown won't be easy for the rookie. Brown leads the Panthers' receiving corps in snaps by a wide margin, playing 79.5 percent of plays, while Funchess' 33.7 percent entering Sunday ranks lower than No. 2 tight end Ed Dickson. Funchess possesses the ideal size to play alongside quarterback Cam Newton and the ability to high-point the football. If he negates the drops problem, Funchess owns the upside to be an upgrade on the outside.

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