Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina's Benjamin Will Bridge Gap That Smith Left Behind

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A lot of folks have been talking down about the Carolina Panthers‘ wide receivers production for this upcoming season, due primarily to the loss of beloved ex-Panther, Steve Smith.  Kelvin Benjamin was drafted out of Florida State to come in and be a #1 wide receiver, something Smith has not been for a solid two years.

Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Smith is one of my favorite all-time players in the NFL.  He is my favorite Panther of all-time and I think we all love what he brought to the football field every Sunday.

That being said, the rookie Seminole is poised to step in and provide the team with as much production as Smitty brought to Carolina last year, and would have brought had he remained on the team in 2014.  Rookie receivers rarely step in and put up WR1 numbers, and that is not expected to happen here with Benjamin.  Kelvin Benjamin is, however, capable of putting up 750-800 yards and five-or-six touchdowns this coming year.

Steve Smith’s statistics from 2013: 745 yards and four touchdowns.

Thus far in camp, Benjamin has looked every bit as good as he had during the National Championship run that FSU put up in ’13.  He is pulling in everything thrown to him and has wowed coaches, media and fans.  He has never looked overwhelmed and has been Newton’s favorite target in the early going.

There were question marks about his hands.  Erroneous.

He was said to be “raw” and would take a few years to develop. Not seeing it.  

His route running is weak.  Wrong, again.

Steve Smith’s numbers have been steadily declining over the past few years.  2011 was his last great year, but that was also Cam Newton‘s rookie season.  Smitty was a firm believer in Keyshawn Johnson‘s notion of “Just Give Me the Damn Ball!” in 2011, and you could see Newton eyeing Smith down a ton that year as a safety valve.

Twice in the past four years, Smith has failed to hit 750 yards receiving.  During both of these years he posted two, and four touchdowns, respectively.  Conversely, his drops and attitude flare-ups did increase over this time period too.

This is not to dash the tremendous amount of positivity that Smith brought to the Carolina franchise over his thirteen year career.  He was a consummate pro, was a bulldog on the field with timely catches and was an elite WR1 for a good portion of his NFL career.

“WR Kelvin Benjamin received the day’s biggest applause, for a ball he caught out of bounds. On a 3rd-and-eight call, Newton tried to hit Benjamin on an out. After he went high and extended to make the catch three yards outside the chalk, the crowd went wild.” - Bill Voth, BlackandBlueReview.com

To think that our offense is going to sputter because he is gone, is doing a major disservice to Cam Newton and the current stable of receivers.  Kelvin Benjamin is the one amongst this group that will replace Smith’s contributions this year.

Kelvin Benjamin has already won at the highest level of collegiate football, at a premier university.  At 6’5″, 240-pounds, Benjamin boasts a dominating physique and immense catch radius.  His huge hands look like they are photoshopped and his athleticism is uncommon for players of his stature.

If he continues to do what he has done thus far at OTAs and Training Camp, he will enjoy a brilliant rookie season.  He and Newton started working on chemistry immediately, and continue to build on that foundation every day.  What better target for a 6’5″ quarterback, than a 6’5″ receiver with polar bear paws for hands.

Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Kelvin Benjamin was the right draft selection in May.  For the first time in quite awhile, we have a franchise quarterback, as well as a franchise WR1.

Steve Smith will be sorely missed by almost every Panthers’ fan, but there’s a difference between emotional loss and productive loss.  Steve Smith was an emotional loss.  Kelvin Benjamin is a productive gain.  KB13 will step in and balance Smitty’s on-field production in 2014, and the Panthers will be a better offensive team because of Benjamin’s presence.

Be proud Cat Crave Nation, we have a young stud-receiver that is enjoying an immediate connection with our franchise quarterback.  What Steve Smith did in Carolina should never be forgotten, but the changing of the guard was imminent.

Embrace the change.  Kelvin Benjamin will help the Panthers’ offense continue without skipping a beat.

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Tags: Carolina Panthers Kelvin Benjamin Steve Smith

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