On August 19th, the Panthers were going through 1-on-1 drills when young receiver Kelvin Benjamin went down grabbing his knee. While the initial report stated that it may have only been a sprain, it came out later that he had in fact torn his ACL.
This is obviously a huge loss for Carolina. Benjamin finished his rookie season with 73 receptions, 1008 yards, and 9 TDs. The rookie phenom looked to continue his progression with the 100-million dollar smile in Cam Newton as the Panthers looked to take the NFC South. While those plans are definitely slowed down, this may be beneficial to the team in the long-run… and here’s why:
- Green Bay is the clear favorite in the NFC, with the Seattle Seahawks right behind them. Carolina could make a run at the playoffs, but in a division that should be much tougher than last year, even the playoffs are far from a guarantee.
- Devin Funchess is forced to grow up. Fast. Last season Kelvin Benjamin was thrown right into the mix and passed with flying colors. The expectations for Funchess may be curved, but he will be utilized right away. He will be forced to adapt to the speed and size of the NFL and make the necessary adjustments quickly. While this year may start out rough for the Michigan rookie, next season will be much stronger with a year under his belt.
- Jonathan Stewart proves his worth (again). By letting long-time running back DeAngelo Williams walk (and later sign with Pittsburgh) the Panthers are showing faith in their other veteran back, Jonathan Stewart. Stewart was extended from his previous contract and is set to make more than $8 million this season. Considering the fact that Stewart has failed to reach 1,000 yards in his previous five seasons means he will need to return to 2009 form. With only 1,000+ carries for his career, he should still have fresh legs and be more effective both now and for the rest of his contract.
Things do not look great as the Panthers continue to struggle in forming a receiving corps for former No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton. However, while the consequences of Kelvin Benjamin’s injury may leave the team in a worse state for this season, it provides the opportunity for extreme growth in the coming years.
*Image from The Sports Post