The Carolina Panthers unexpectedly lost second-year wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the season due to an ACL tear he sustained in practice on Wednesday. The loss automatically shifts more focus onto rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess, who knows more is expected of him now.
The Panthers have talked up Funchess’ IQ claiming he has already learned the Z receiver spot, and the slot. Now, he will have to learn Benjamin’s X role moving forward. Sitting out of practice on Thursday with a sore hamstring, Funchess spoke up on his new role:
“It was always my expectation for it to be a big year. It just so happened that occurred yesterday,” Funchess said Thursday (via The Charlotte Observer). “So I guess everybody will expect more on my plate.”
Head coach Ron Rivera spoke on how Funchess will have to transition:
“Absolutely, that should help a lot. He is really a solid young man,” coach Ron Rivera said of the receiver’s IQ, via The Charlotte Observer. “He knows two positions, and obviously he’ll concentrate on Kelvin’s and work to handle that spot for us.”
At this point, Funchess isn’t the projected talent that Benjamin evolved into last season. However, his 6-foot-4 height will make it more challenging at times for defenders to defend his high reach.
Benjamin dazzled as a rookie putting up 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. It’s not anticipated that Funchess will be able to meet or top Benjamin’s numbers considering he didn’t always prove himself in the red zone when he played for the University of Michigan.
Funchess posted only 773 yards and four touchdowns in his last college season. Expectations by the Panthers, their fans and fantasy owners will need to be tamed.