The Panthers have been exceeding expectations all season.
But the extent to which they exceeded their own underscores how far they’ve come with an odd lot of wide rececivers.
Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman admitted he was optimistic going into the season, up to the point in training camp when second-year wideout Kelvin Benjamin went down with a torn ACL.
“I really felt like we were an 11-5, 12-4 team,” Gettleman said. “And then Kelvin goes down, and let’s be honest, you’d have to be an idiot to think that then.”
Gettleman said the only silver lining was that Benjamin was injured so early in August that it gave the rest of the roster time to grow into new roles. And while not many people had much faith in that group, Gettleman did, such that he had a choice.
He said getting Ted Ginn back after a one-year cash-grab in Arizona was a key, and that while Ginn has obvious faults (he drops about half of what is thrown his way), he fits in there because they’re willing to buy in bulk, accept the drops for the deep balls he hauls in. Veteran Jerricho Cotchery and Philly Brown have played their parts as well, but Gettleman admitted that Benjamin was the one player he was most worried about losing to injury as he built this team.
“That’s why we drafted Devin Funchess when we did,” he said of his second-rounder. “Because all offseason, I kept worrying about what would happen if Kelvin went down. He was primed to have a monster year, he was going to go off. And we didn’t have anybody else who was 6-5, so I felt like we had to add there.”
Not only did they reach his goal, but they’ve exceeded it. And while his group of wide receivers aren’t going to be confused with the best units in the league, they’ve gotten the Panthers this far, making you wonder what it will look like next year when Benjamin returns and they could get better.