Panthers Lose Kelvin Benjamin to Torn ACL
After two straight NFC South division titles, the Carolina Panthers looked to be on the verge of competing for a Super Bowl title. Quarterback Cam Newton signed a massive contract and entered camp fully healthy, and even inherited a new rookie wide receiver.
Carolina’s momentum took a hit on Wednesday, when the team learned that they’d have to play the entire 2015 season without one of their top offensive weapons.
It’s a torn ACL for #Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 19, 2015
Per reports, number one target Kelvin Benjamin suffered a torn ACL in practice and will miss the entire season. Benjamin was carted off the practice field earlier today and head coach Ron Rivera said immediately after that initial tests suggested it was just a sprain. After undergoing an MRI, it was confirmed that Benjamin had torn his ACL. The team will place their star second-year receiver on injured reserve and he’ll begin rehab to try to return at 100% next summer.
The loss of Benjamin is a massive blow to a Panthers team that appeared to be on the right track on both sides of the ball. Benjamin was a serious force even as a raw rookie in 2014, when he hauled in 73 balls for nearly 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. A size/speed freak, Benjamin quickly learned how to use his talents to both stretch the field vertically, and also win in the red-zone.
Filling the Void
Carolina saw their hit with Benjamin last year and went out and drafted Michigan product Devin Funchess to try to replicate their success. Unfortunately, Funchess won’t be allowed to test the waters in his first year, rather he will be pushed into action right away.
With Benjamin sidelined for the year, Funchess suddenly could vault to the team’s #1 spot, while both Jerricho Cotchery and Ted Ginn Jr. could see expanded roles. Tight end Greg Olsen’s role just might expand the most, as Olsen put up career numbers last year, but may be targets by Newton now more than ever.
Out of the Playoffs?
Any injury can be big for a team, whether it’s at an important position or just at a position with little depth. Unfortunately for the Panthers, both are realities, as Benjamin was far and away their top weapon in the passing game and now they’re left with little to fall back on.
This massive injury could negatively impact Carolina’s playoff chances this year, while their +4000 Super Bowl odds will undoubtedly take a hit. The Panthers have been a trendy team to bet on the past couple years, and until today, weren’t the worst pick to make a Super Bowl run in 2015. However, unless Funchess truly is the second coming of Kelvin Benjamin or the Panthers swing a trade to upgrade their receiving corps, their offense should suffer for it. For a team that snuck into the playoffs in a bad division a year ago, they may not be able to get by with the same lethargic and inconsistent offense.
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