At last month's rookie symposium, Kelvin Benjamin met with former offensive lineman Ross Tucker. With OTA's and minicamp complete, Benjamin and Tucker talked about the rookie's immersion into the NFL.
Only a few short months into his career, it remains to be seen how the Panthers will utilize their new weapon. Some slot Benjamin on the second team, citing the Florida State product's inexperience as a limiting factor. Others more optimistic have Benjamin stepping into a starting role right away. Reports from the practice field vary. What does the rookie say for himself?
Tucker: "How do you learn? Are you trying to translate it back to Florida State? Or are you just trying to look at it totally different here in Carolina?"
Benjamin: "I'm looking at it totally different. We (used more) concepts at Florida State, and we (use the) route tree (with the) Panthers. And I had (used the) route tree in high school, so it was pretty much, kinda easy for me to catch up, so I just really had to learn the formations. And for the most part the numbers are easy, once you know the route tree, you'll know what you've got."
Here Benjamin offers insight into the structure of the offense. Whereas the Seminoles, like many teams in the NFL, use concepts to call plays, the Panthers use the old-fashioned method of calling out each assignment individually. So 'I Weak Right Boot Right 449 Fullback Opposite' instead of 'I Weak Right Diamond' or simply 'Diamond'. But it's not so cut and dry.
Tucker: "Is there a lot of stuff in Carolina's offense, Kelvin, where you're changing you're route based on what you see from the coverage? Or is it pretty much call it, and run it, in the huddle?
Benjamin: "Yeah, we got a lot of routes. You know like seven routes. So you have to adjust that if a corner (is) high, you know, you're gonna want to come flat. If (the corner is low), they want us to keep it high. You know it's just a lot of routes that you've got to run. And you've just got to watch the coverage as you run the route."
Based on the coverage at large, the Panthers WR's, and QB, are charged with taking advantage of the defense's vulnerabilities.
Tucker: "Now have they been moving you around at all, Kelvin? Or have you just been focusing on one spot?"
Benjamin: "Focusing on one spot, X. But they can call 12 Z, and then, I mean you gotta go to Z.
Benjamin: "So they can move you around. So I think right now they're just keeping (it) really [...] basic, backside X."
This parcel is a little more difficult to decipher, but it begets the most interesting tidbit of the interview.
Thus far, Benjamin has been practicing as the X WR, the #1 target.
But is he on the first team? Hard to say. Judging by the comment about keeping it basic, I'd wager no.
The rookie won't be starting out in the slot, or reprising Brandon LaFell's role. Speculation of course, the Panthers seemingly plan on starting Benjamin out as a package player, playing him in specialized situations where he will be the first option.