The Carolina Panthers had to consider themselves pretty lucky before practice on Wednesday by making it this far without any major injuries. The biggest surprises over the past few weeks was the retirements of tackle Jonathan Martin, prior to training camp, and cornerback Chris Houston in the first couple of practices.
That all changed rather quickly during practice Wednesday when wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin went down with what was later determined to be a torn ACL. Even though the depth at the wide receiver position was considered the strength of the offense, it is hard to recover from the loss of a number one wide receiver.
The coaching staff is now going to have to figure out over the next three preseason games who on the roster can help replace Benjamin’s production. If they don’t feel comfortable with any players currently on the roster, the team can evaluate which free agents are available and any players who may be cut prior to the season that can be a boost to this offense.
The first player that comes to mind to replace Benjamin would be second-round rookie Devin Funchess. The tall former Michigan Wolverine was impressive during OTAs and minicamp when he was moving around the offense when Benjamin was out with a hamstring issue.
However, the coaches may have to wait to fully evaluate the position as Funchess is currently dealing with his own hamstring issue and will miss this weekend’s game with the Dolphins. I think the Panthers won’t be able to find all the lost production in one player but it will be a combination between Funchess along with veterans Ted Ginn Jr. and Corey Brown.
The injury to Benjamin also has an impact on the bottom of the depth chart as Brenton Bersin and Jarrett Boykin were seemingly fighting for one roster spot but it seems likely that both will not end up on the 53-man roster.
The other major question mark for the Panthers coming out of training camp has to be what to do with their pass rush. Against the Buffalo Bills, there was very little pass rush especially with Charles Johnson out with a calf injury. The combination of Kony Ealy and Frank Alexander was ineffective and the coaching staff decided to switch things up this week at training camp.
The team has struggled to find a replacement for Greg Hardy and the early parts of training camp have to be a concern. It is going to be interesting to see if one of the younger players like Rakim Cox, who played very well in the first preseason game, can emerge over these next three games and earn that starting job.
Every NFL team hopes to have all their questions answered prior to the close of training camp. The Carolina Panthers don’t necessarily have these questions answered but they have the options to address them before their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
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