The Panthers had finally found a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver for QB Cam Newton, and were only a few more pieces away from truly competing for a Super Bowl.
Carolina indeed went on a magical 15-1 run the following season, but it sadly culminated in a Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos.
Unfortunately, Benjamin didn’t experience any of that success, as he tore an ACL in August and missed the entire campaign.
Kelvin Benjamin being carted off the field. Appeared to injure his left leg. pic.twitter.com/kQ5CYWGqIh
— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) August 19, 2015
Although he was heavily criticized at times, and the Panthers completely fell apart going 6-10, Benjamin had a statistically solid comeback season in 2016.
He finished with 63 receptions for 941 yards and seven TDs, and was expected to take another huge step forward in 2017.
Now, that step forward is in question.
Kelvin Benjamin doesn’t look… fit. pic.twitter.com/g0yVSl5yaf
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) May 24, 2017
Kelvin Benjamin run as fast as his metabolism…. pic.twitter.com/7QbVlFCz9F
— Marquette PUN-King (@HoodCertified) May 23, 2017
Benjamin showed up to OTA’s looking more like a down lineman than a wide receiver this week, and the internet did what the internet does: It fat-shamed him into oblivion.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) May 24, 2017
Kelvin Benjamin when he sees Eddie lacy pic.twitter.com/Kp401OXk3f
— ❄️ (@Matthew12082) May 25, 2017
Kelvin Benjamin gonna eat his way into a 3-point stance lmao
— matt adams fan acct (@hashim_cole) May 23, 2017
I lost it when somebody said Kelvin Benjamin look like he running with timbs on
— E⚜️ (@ObeyTheBoss___) May 23, 2017
Benjamin is well aware of the criticism, and apparently has already spoken with Carolina’s coaching and training staffs respectively, vowing to work hard to get back into tip-top shape.
I was really kind of disappointed,” Benjamin said after a strength and conditioning session Wednesday. “I wanted to come in and set the bar high for myself and let my teammates know that KB 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…
“All I can do is take it and use it as motivation to get where they want me to be,” said Benjamin, who plans to get his naturally hulking 6-foot-5 frame down to the 245-pound range. “I’m so used to (the criticism). I don’t worry about it. It won’t affect me. Once camp starts and we start tossing that ball around, people will move on.”
But talk is cheap, and there’s a lot of work to be done this summer if Kelvin indeed wants to remain Newton’s favorite target.