CHARLOTTE -- There haven't been that many opportunities for Panthers wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett. But it's the timing of his few catches, as much as anything, that's earning him some respect around here.
Jarrett's caught a grand total of four passes for 53 yards this year, hardly the kind of stats that make your eyes light up. But it was the third-down conversion against New Orleans last week, or the late grab at San Diego, that's starting to get him noticed.
It's a good thing he's showing something, because D.J. Hackett returned to practice on a limited basis, his first action since spraining his right medial collateral ligament three weeks ago against Kansas City.
Still, Jarrett's going to have a few more weeks to prove his value, and he knows he can't squander opportunities.
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"It means a lot," Jarrett said of the trust in him they've displayed. "I try to do what I can do to help the team win. My job is to catch the ball whenever I get the opportunity, whether it's third down or second down.
"They trust me enough to go out there and make plays, they know what I can do, so they're throwing me in the fire now."
Whoever the third receiver is, he's not going to have that many passes thrown his way. The Panthers have used an abundance of two-tight end sets this year instead of three-wides, so the chances are few. Jarrett knows he has to capitalize whenever they come. Last week, it was the third play of the game when Jake Delhomme found him for a 13-yard gain on third-and-7, and they went on to score on that possession for just the second time on an opening drive all year.
"I feel like I can make plays, it's what I do," Jarrett said. "It's been a slow process coming along, but that's nothing new to me. I've been doing it since before high school. I have to get into the swing of things, as far as getting out there more and making more plays, and just trying to help the team.
"I always knew I could do it, I just had to let my coaches and teammates know. They just want to see more of it, me working harder, and getting in the swing of things. I'm still waiting for that breakout game, but you've just got to be patient."
Coach John Fox said he's been most impressed with the 22-year-old's poise through the process.
"I think good," Fox replied when asked how Jarrett was playing. "He's definitely improved from a year ago. He was a young person as well as a young player, and I think he's definitely matured."
• GROWING UP: Linebacker Thomas Davis has flourished with the move to the weakside. So far this season, he's recorded 60 tackles, putting him on pace to dwarf last year's numbers. If he keeps up at this rate, he'd finish with 145 stops. He had 209 in his first three seasons, and 85 last year, when he was playing on the strongside.
They moved him this year to get him out of traffic, and he's responded, better able to use his speed.
"Thomas is a year better," Fox said. "He came into this league as a safety, and he played both in college. Now he is figuring out how to play linebacker. The switch maybe has simplified it some. But he's worked very, very hard and that's why he's playing like he's playing today."
• INJURY UPDATE: Fox said Hackett had progressed enough to get on the field in a limited capacity, the first positive news since his Oct. 5 injury. Hackett wasn't available when reporters were in the locker room Wednesday.
"He looked better," Fox said. "I think he's definitely now day-to-day; he's not week-to-week any more, which is a good sign. He's a guy that had production for us early in the season, had the injury and we're happy to have him back out there."
Right tackle Jeff Otah and center Ryan Kalil were out again. If they don't practice today, it's a pretty good sign their absences are going to stretch through the bye week. Fox said previously that he'd play them when they were ready, but the extra seven days wouldn't hurt them.
Otah's missed the last three games and Kalil the last two.
Wideout Muhsin Muhammad didn't practice because of "team decision," which is code for the older guy's day off. Davis (shoulder) was also limited.