Kelvin Benjamin’s ACL injury means the Carolina Panthers are turning to second-round pick Devin Funchess to lead the wide receivers, and quarterback Cam Newton is determined to expedite the process.
According to ESPN’s David Newton, the fifth-year gunslinger is trying to help Funchess progress quickly—once the rookie recovers from an injury, that is.
“He has to learn at an accelerated rate, but I’m taking him up under my wing. I have full confidence in Devin that he gets it, sooner rather than later.”
Newton continued, saying he knows Funchess will be reliable when the game is on the line, which is high praise for someone whose NFL career consists of one preseason outing.
Funchess tallied two receptions for 53 yards in the preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills, but a tight hamstring sidelined the Michigan product when Carolina faced the Miami Dolphins.
While the expectation that he can seamlessly replace isn’t quite fair, that won’t stop Funchess from receiving widespread hype. In reality, though, it’s unlikely he’ll match Benjamin’s 2014 impact.
At 6’4″, Funchess has the ability to dominate defensive backs, but he must improve his route-running and display strong hands at catch-point. The 21-year-old isn’t a shifty target, so he needs to work on creating separation without the help of tremendous foot speed.
Put simply, Funchess needs a year to develop. Although Newton’s veteran advice will certainly pay dividends, becoming a No. 1 receiver in the NFL isn’t easily accomplished.