If you want to start a debate among Carolina Panthers fans, talk about Kelvin Benjamin. It's been like that from the beginning. When they announced his name in 2014, I flipped. I wanted Bradly Roby. I thought Allen Robinson was the guy. I didn't think the unpolished behemoth of a receiver was the guy. My outcry was cooled by voices who pointed to his size, his ability to win contested catches, and to have faith in the Panthers scouting.
After his rookie year, they looked right, Gettleman looked like a guru, and Benjamin looked like he was destined to be a beast. He hit a wall about 12 games into the season, but he still amassed over 1000 yards and 9 touchdowns on 73 receptions.
He hype was out of control going into Benjamin's second season, and it wasn't coming from the fans alone. The USA Today headlined, "Kelvin Benjamin shines in training camp opener."
The hype train was derailed when KB suffered a season-ending ACL injury in a joint practice with the Miami Dolphin.
Benjamin returned in 2016 and expectations were through the roof. Adding the physically imposing wideout to the most explosive offense that made it to the Super Bowl destined, many believed, Carolina for offensive greatness. The Panthers offense didn't live up the billing and neither did Benjamin. He struggled with drops, looked heavy and slow, and appeared to just give up at times. To add insult to injury, Benjamin drew some costly penalties throughout the season, which only spotlighted his up and down performance.
The conversation about Kelvin Benjamin this offseason has been pessimistic, and the criticism are valid. Benjamin looked very much like the player many warned he would be coming out of college. He looked unfocused at best and apathetic at worst. He certainly didn't progress like so many of us had hoped he would. The rehab, which we hoped equated to KB spending a lot of time in the meeting rooms and with film study, didn't translate into more polished play.
Today, Gettleman was asked about Kelvin Benjamin's 2016 season. Here's the gist of his comments:
We should be careful to not overly interpret Gettleman's comments. He's going to be upbeat and optimistic going forward. Saying a bunch of discouraging and negative comments about Benjamin's development likely would produce many positive results heading into 2017. He's not going to give up on a guy who the Panthers need to be better. In the same breath, I think Gettleman gives those who are ready to give up on Benjamin or proclaim him a bust some reason to pause. They may very well be right in the end, but as Gettleman noted that we get better at our craft with time. It's a reality we don't recognize enough in the modern era of football where teams need to win now and rookies need to produce immediately.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
Follow @Cat_Chronicles for the latest Panthers news and opinions from the fan perspective.