Kelvin Benjamin looks out of shape at Panthers OTAs and even he's disappointed
The wide receiver isn't in the best shape of his life after a down 2016 season
There is an oft-used phrase in the NFL offseason that involves players being in "the best shape of their lives." Kelvin Benjamin, admittedly, is not at that point right now.
The Panthers about Benjamin's weight and than 280 pounds, 35 pounds over his usual playing weight of around 245 pounds.
Those reports might not be accurate to the pound, but after seeing Benjamin show up at OTAs this week it's hard not believe there's some truth in them. The Panthers wideout looked, frankly, pretty hefty on videos that ran on the Panthers website.
That looks like me rolling up to the gym the other day in a medium workout shirt after spending a weekend eating red meat and drinking IPAs. (And, friendly reminder: This is not, by the way, an exercise in weight shaming, this is about the potential production of a former first-round pick predicated on how he will play due to what kind of shape he's in. Nor is it even really any sort of judgment. It's late spring and there are plenty of us working to get back into tip-top shape ahead of the coming season. See: red meat, IPAs.)
This is also the first glance the Panthers have had at their offense and Benjamin's lack of speed and crispness while running routes should be a red flag.
That is not the world's fastest route. Benjamin got about 25 yards down the field in roughly three seconds with no pads on and no one covering him. He was never the fastest guy in the world -- he ran a 4.61 at the combine and, because of his size, takes a while to get up to his top speed in the first place. But that's not what you want to see coming out of the gates.
Benjamin just didn't look good in OTAs.
In good news, Benjamin knows he's out of shape, telling Panthers.com's Max Henson he was "disappointed" by his initial weigh-in last week.
"I was really kind of disappointed," Benjamin said last Wednesday. "I wanted to come in and set the bar high for myself and let my teammates know that K.B. is back this year and he's ready to roll.
"I think people saw that first weigh-in and were like, 'Woah, is he ready to play?' But we had a good talk. [Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman] told me what I had to do, and that's what I've been doing."
Benjamin did manage to sneak in the old offseason trope, but didn't claim he was there, merely that he needs to get there.
"I need to be in the best shape of my life. That's what we're getting to," Benjamin said. "I have to get back to being dominant."
It's important to remember that Benjamin has had a bizarre career arc. After being selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, he put up huge numbers in his rookie season.
The next training camp he tore his ACL, prompting expectations of a disastrous 2015 season for the Panthers. They went 15-1. Benjamin returned last season and neither he nor the offense met expectations, although the wideout did still finish with 941 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
Framed in that context, Benjamin had a pretty good year. But the Panthers are expecting much more this season, with a rebound expected from the offense and the former Florida State standout. There's plenty of time for him to get ready for the season but the first day with live action was not the most impressive.
Benjamin should have plenty of criticism to motivate him.
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