Damiere Byrd has been making plays against the Panthers defense throughout training camp in Spartanburg, so it was no surprise to his Panthers teammates when he had a stellar preseason debut Wednesday night against the Texans.
The former South Carolina star caught four passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns in limited action while leading Carolina to a 27-17 win against Houston.
“He’s had a great camp and he had a great spring, obviously coming back from a banged up knee last year. He’s going to continue to get better every single day,” Panthers backup quarterback Derek Anderson said. “He played unbelievable tonight. Made some great plays and that’s what it’s all about. When the opportunity comes, you’ve got to make plays.”
The highlight of the night was a 50-yard touchdown reception by Byrd from Carolina quarterback Joe Webb in the second quarter. He added an 8-yard touchdown catch in the third as he hauled in four of his six targets.
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Carolina coach Ron Rivera was pleased with what he saw from the speedy wide out.
“Last couple of years, (he) just worked very hard, got an opportunity at the end of the season last year to play, made a couple of plays and we were excited to see him,” Rivera said. “He’s taking the opportunity. He’s taking advantage. Again, it’s just one game, it’s one preseason game, but Damiere Byrd shows he has some ability.”
Rivera added that he has been pleased with Byrd’s development from his rookie year.
He arrived to the Panthers with the reputation of just being a speed guy, but he has worked hard to improve as an all-around receiver.
“He’s progressed very, very nicely,” Rivera said. “His first year with us, he earned an opportunity to be on the practice squad with us, and last year, he was on the practice squad again. At the end of the year, we activated him and saw some flashes of his ability. We were excited about this opportunity to see his quickness and see him on the field.”
Byrd also did well in the return game, running back a kickoff for 22 yards and returning two punts for 19 yards.
He is hoping to continue to use his speed to make plays at receiver and in the return game throughout the preseason and into the regular season.
“My entire life, speed was my thing,” Byrd said. “Anytime I am going vertical, doing post routes or deep goes, I am gone. I am looking for the ball, and if it’s there, I’m going to get it.”
Former South Carolina State running back Jalen Simmons led the Panthers with nine carries for 38 yards in the win against the Texans.