Atlanta Falcons: Kelvin Benjamin injury puts pressure on Falcons to take control


Tragic news came out of Charlotte, North Carolina today as we learned that Kelvin Benjamin’s injury was as bad as the Carolina Panthers had initially feared. The second year man from Florida State will miss the entire 2015 season after he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee.

Benjamin went down doing a one-on-one drill in a joint practice with the Miami Dolphins. The fact that there was no contact made people fear the worst. Benjamin was taken back to Charlotte for an MRI, which revealed that he had in fact torn his ACL.

More from Atlanta Falcons News

This news is absolutely unfortunate, not just for the Panthers and Benjamin, but also for NFL fans in general. You never hope to see anyone get hurt. But at the end of the day, this is good news on the field for the other three NFC South teams, who won’t have to face the Florida State product this year.

Benjamin took the league by storm in his rookie year, after being selected in the first round of the 2014 draft. He made 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns after quickly emerging as Cam Newton’s No. 1 receiver and favorite target. He is so difficult to cover at 6’5 and 245 pounds.

The Panthers won the NFC South for the second straight time last year, becoming the first team to ever win this division twice in a row. But they were very unimpressive in doing so, finishing with a 7-8-1 record.

Carolina’s mission to three-peat this year was already in doubt after an unimpressive offseason. They were coming into this season with a shaky offensive line and an already thin wide receiver corps, with no clear WR2 behind Benjamin. With the injury, the Panthers’ wide receiving corps goes from bad to awful.

The Panthers traded up to draft WR Devin Funchess in the second round of the draft this year, but many felt that he was a reach at pick 41. The Michigan product is a physical presence in his own right at 6’4, but he’s a converted tight end who just isn’t as good as Benjamin was coming out of college.

Philly Brown, Jericho Cotchery, and Ted Ginn are the other receivers on the Panthers’ roster. They might go out and sign a veteran free agent such as Reggie Wayne or Wes Welker.

The Falcons were already one of the favorites to wrestle the NFC South title away from Carolina, following a very good offseason where they bolstered the defense and brought in a new coaching staff led by former Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Now, they’ll come into the season as the proverbial division favorites.

Losing their best receiver is a blow that Carolina will be hard pressed to come back from. Their passing game will absolutely suffer, and they’ll have a harder time putting points on the board.

The pre-draft loss of Jimmy Graham for the Saints has hurt their chances of division supremacy; while the Buccaneers look to be a couple of years away from competing, themselves. That leaves the Falcons as the only team from last season’s three-horse division race that didn’t lose arguably their best skill position player.

Expectations for the Falcons in Dan Quinn’s rookie head coaching season have understandably risen. A division title is to be expected now, with the rest of the competition recovering from critical blows. Anything short of a division title will be a failure for Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons in 2015.

Next: Falcons-Jets: What to expect

More from Blogging Dirty