Ron Rivera admits he’s thought ‘what-if’ about Kelvin Benjamin

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera can't help but to think how things could be even better for his 4-0 team if Kelvin Benjamin was healthy.
Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports

By David Kenyon

The Carolina Panthers have tallied four straight wins to open the 2015 NFL season, but head coach Ron Rivera has caught himself thinking “what-if” about Kelvin Benjamin.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Rivera said admitted he’s considered how Benjamin might be producing had the wide receiver not torn the ACL in his left knee.

“I hate to say it, but I did this morning. I walked in and there he was at his locker. I just kept thinking, ‘Golly.'”

Benjamin’s injury left a Carolina pass-catching corps severely depleted, since Ted Ginn became the pseudo-No. 1 receiver. Philly Brown, Brenton Bersin and Jerricho Cotchery lead the wideouts, while tight end Greg Olsen is the top overall option for quarterback Cam Newton.

The Panthers selected Devin Funchess in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft, but the expectations that he’d immediately and seamlessly replace Benjamin was unfair. Funchess is just 21 years old—nearly three full seasons younger than Benjamin.

Rivera said Benjamin’s absence has actually hindered Funchess’ development, since the rookie has a similar stature but can’t watch how the second-year player performs. Yet, thanks to Newton guiding the offense at an MVP level, the offense has made due without Benjamin and what would’ve been a shocking emergence from Funchess.

Carolina will battle the Seattle Seahawks, and if the Panthers do upend the reigning NFC champions, it’ll be a statement game for Rivera’s team. But if Carolina falls just short and could’ve used an offensive boost, the Panthers might wonder what would’ve happened if Benjamin was available.

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