Benjamin caught both of his targets for 40 yards and a touchdown in Wednesday's preseason opener against the Texans.
Benjamin's freak physical attributes were clear to see during his short stint to start the exhibition slate. The 245-pounder broke a couple tackles en route to 17 yards on Carolina's first offensive play of the night, and then used his 6-foot-5 frame to high-point a 23-yard touchdown on the team's second drive. In doing so, Benjamin once again proved to be a nightmare for opposing cornerbacks to deal with.
After dealing with conditioning concerns throughout last season, Benjamin reported to the Panthers' offseason program visibly out of shape, seemingly checking in at over 250 pounds. He could probably still benefit from dropping a bit more, but he's already below his listed weight of 245 and approaching his 2014 Combine weight of 240. Benjamin is also now two years removed from suffering a torn ACL, which should help him get his body back into peak form as he continues to work on his conditioning. He only played 72 percent of the team's offensive snaps last season despite playing all 16 games. He logged 84 percent as a rookie in 2014, and many No. 1 receivers around the league top 90 percent.
Benjamin appears to be near his listed weight of 245 pounds at the start of training camp, Jodie Valade of ESPN.com reports. "He looked really good," head coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday. "We aren't going to get into numbers, but he is where he needs to be."
In the early stages of the offseason program, both photos and video emerged of a less than svelte Benjamin, spurring concerns about his presumed commitment to the game. Having said that, his fifth-year option was ultimately exercised by the Panthers, which may have precipitated positive reports about the wideout as the months passed. Although he may not be precisely at his desired weight, Rivera was pleased enough to give Benjamin his seal of approval. If healthy and in shape, Benjamin will again act as one of Cam Newton's top options in the passing attack along with veteran tight end Greg Olsen and rookie dual threat Christian McCaffrey.
Benjamin was called out in April by head coach Ron Rivera for being out of shape during Carolina's offseason program, but the towering wideout seemingly has fixed his figure since then. Although the 6-5 target's listed weight of 245 pounds is probably flattering, Benjamin was still nimble enough to reach down and make some tough catches on low passes during minicamp. With Rivera's message in mind, Benjamin will try to avoid some of the conditioning problems that plagued him last season, when he played only 72 percent of the Panthers' offensive snaps despite being their clear No. 1 wideout.
Benjamin's option will keep him in Carolina through the 2018 season. The wideout accrued 118 targets in 2016, which was second to only Greg Olsen with 127, and led the team with seven receiving touchdowns. Benjamin finished the season with less than 1,000 receiving yards, but at least part of that can be attributed to the Panthers having a mediocre year offensively, finishing 21st in passing yards per game. Concerns have been brought up regarding Benjamin's weight this offseason, but he will have some time to get into peak shape before preseason starts in August.
|P3||8/24/17||@ JAC||7:30 pm|
|1||9/10/17||@ SF||4:25 pm|
|4||10/1/17||@ NE||1:00 pm|
|5||10/8/17||@ DET||1:00 pm|
|7||10/22/17||@ CHI||1:00 pm|
|8||10/29/17||@ TB||1:00 pm|
|Bye: Week 11|
|12||11/26/17||@ NYJ||1:00 pm|
|13||12/3/17||@ NO||1:00 pm|
|17||12/31/17||@ ATL||1:00 pm|
|Year||Team||G||Fum||Lost||Fum Forced||Own Rec||Opp Rec||Yds||Tot Rec||TD|