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Kelvin Benjamin vs Vikes analysis

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Sorry to post only the link but I'm in my phone. If someone could cope and pasterase full article it'd be cool. Basically it shows how Benjamin really needs to work on the finer points of being a WR instead of getting by on talent.

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Copied and pasted from my phone


The Panthers fanbase is the third in three weeks to questions themselves about everything they do offensively after facing the Vikings defense. Aaron Rodgers wasn't an elite QB anymore after facing the them in week 2. I think he bounced back just fine against Detroit in week 3. The Vikings are fielding one of the top defenses in the league (if not the very best), and only got better with the addition of Xavier Rhodes in week 3, so I knew this week was going to be rough. What I didn't expect was the disappearance of one Kelvin Benjamin.

I try to spread my attention around when I review film. Look for standouts from individual plays, watch the line, check out special teams, certain matchups, etc. The more I watched this game, the more I found myself drawn to following one player only. Kelvin Benjamin. Now, once again, it is worth mentioning that the Vikings have an elite defense, but I saw some troubling play from KB himself.

In case we all forgot, I'd like to throw out his draft profile from real quick.


Lacks elite, top-end speed and many catches are contested. Hand use could improve releasing vs. tight, press coverage. Overly grabby. Is not yet a nuanced route runner and does not sink his hips and pop in and out of his breaks.....Blocking effort/sustainability has room to improve on the move.

What I saw this week was a KB at his worst on many plays. Poor routes, lackluster effort, no separation, and mental mistakes.

Play #1 - Shown here.

8:30 1st Quarter - 11 personnel - Two double routes on the outside for both KB and Funch. KB (top of screen) runs to a spot seven yards downfield, lazily hops back (without looking at the LoS) before turning back upfield. The DB sits on the route and is with KB every step. Compare that route to Funchess at the bottom. Funch fully sells the comeback, turning his entire body back and looking towards the LoS (helps sell the fake) before releasing back outside. This forces the DB to jump the route, creating contact well downfield and getting an illegal contact penalty, and a new set of downs.

Play #2 - Shown here.

7:20 1st Quarter - 21 personnel - You see almost every flaw in route running in his pre draft profile show up here. He tends to banana routes, lacking the ability to sink his hips and explode into cuts. On a lot of his routes, it almost looks like he is jogging, as he doesn't seem to have an extra gear to shift into. This one in particular, there's no separation at the cut and Cam has to pull back a ball he fully wanted to throw (that was no pump fake), scrambling for a couple instead. The space was there if KB was able to make his cut at 90 degrees or at least separate from the defender.

Play #3 - Shown here.

6:43 1st Quarter - 11 personnel - The day wasn't all bad, of course. On this one, Cam finds Philly on a beautiful corner route and drops it in perfectly for the big gain. I will point out KB at the bottom of the screen once again. He is running a 15 yard comeback route, but you can see him start to lean back and slow down around the ten yard mark, taking 5-6 steps to stop his momentum and turn for the ball. There was no explosiveness to take the DB by surprise, and the defender is able to react quickly and close the gap.

Play #4 - Shown here.

1:51 1st Quarter - 11 personnel - Seemingly, this was the turning point of the game for the offense. After taking this big safety, the offense never got it going again. Panthers send 3 on routes leaving 7 to protect. Since it's a play action, LT Oher sells the fake by firing out at the DE. The DE, Hunter, hesitates, making Oher overextend. Once he's over extended, his base is lost and he is easily shoved to the ground. Hunter continues on to make the play. On the other side, Olsen whiffs on his block and tumbles to the ground. Otherwise he might have been a safety outlet for Cam. Dickson comes free on the far side of the field, but Cam is trying to hit Ginn downfield on the double move when he is sacked.

What a mess of a play. If it's me and I'm backed up in my own endzone, I'm not so sure I'll run a play action. If I do, I'll make sure to give myself several quick routes in case the pressure is looming. Put some blame on the coaching staff for this call, put some blame on Cam for not checking down to Dickson (trying to hit the home run instead), and put some blame on KB for not looking for the ball sooner. Cam was trying to hit him first.

Play #5 - Shown here.

12:44 2nd Quarter - 11 personnel - Cam finds Ginn for 25 yards and a big first down. Blocking up front holds well including a perfect lane for Cam to step up into. This offense looks explosive when these types of plays get time to develop. Otherwise, not so much. One thing to note, KB at the bottom of the screen. The CB comes up to press the young WR at the line, and KB tries to get an outside release, but is met with contact. Instead of fighting for position, KB lets himself get shoved out of bounds and takes the rest of the play off. Can't expect to be targeted when you're out of bounds.

The very next play - Shown here.

The very next play, KB (top of screen) runs a....shove route? I'm not sure what to call what we see here. KB is a top option for Cam, as Cam looks left to draw the safety over and then looks to KB facing the 7 yard cushion. KB has no interest in being a target on this play however, only looking back after he's shoved the DB. I'm not sure if he was upset at getting ridden out of bounds, but this two play series was very poor. Particularly upsetting was that Cam ended the play getting rolled up on, something that I think affected his throws for the rest of the game.

Play #7 - Shown here.

10:33 2nd Quarter - 11 personnel - Just a little later in the drive, the Panthers go all verticals out of shotgun. No one downfield, so Cam checks it down to Fozzy who takes it to the house. A major swing play in this game. This score makes it 17-2, but a block in the back by KB nullifies the touchdown. They end up missing a field goal on the drive and Minnesota stays within 1 possession. After a hold earlier in the game, KB commits his second penalty at the worst time. I chose this angle on the replay to highlight just how unnecessary the block was. You can argue it was ticky tack, but KB should have known better on this one. That defender was not going to be able to make a play.

Play #8 - Shown here.

4:10 3rd Quarter - 11 personnel - An example of KB just not being on the same page. Here, Vikings are showing their double A gap blitz. At the snap, Cam immediately looks to KB on the hot read, expecting a slant with the middle opening up. He even ***** to throw, expecting KB to come to the same conclusion. Instead, KB sticks with his route and turns a 10 yard hitch, forcing Cam to run for his life and air mail one to Olsen. Early and often in this game I would pick up Cam looking for KB, but either through a lack of separation, poor route, or miscommunication, Cam would be forced to turn elsewhere.

Play #9 - Shown here.

3:19 3rd Quarter - 11 personnel - Cam can't find anyone out of shotgun and scrambles for the first down. Another thing I've yet to see consistently from KB is the ability to improvise. As Cam takes off, notice other receives shake up their routes in an attempt to create new pass angles for Cam. Fozzy even comes booking it out of the backfield just in case. This is where Philly Brown is exceptional, improvising as Cam is able to extend plays. It's one of the reasons why Cam trusts Philly so much, and they are able to connect for bombs on a semi regular basis.

KB, on this play, becomes a spectator. If he flows back towards Cam, there's space for a big completion. This play isn't necessarily the best example, but I have noticed KB give up on plays when it doesn't come his way. This type of demeanor comes through on run plays as well. KB will often just walk over to a DB and place his hands out, allowing the DB to walk by if he so wished. Compare that to guys like Funchess and even the smaller Ginn and Brown who will at least engage, and try to get their bodies between the defender and the ball.

Play #10 - Shown here.

2:44 4th Quarter - 11 personnel - Lined up to the left out of slot, KB makes a move to get inside leverage on the DB. Expecting KB to comeback on his route, Cam chucks it in his direction only to have the defender nearly intercept it. Obvious miscommunication here. It's his first target of the entire game, and KB doesn't even look for the ball. Worth noting, KB was never on the field in the series after this, the only series he didn't see snaps. Were the coaches fed up with him at that point? Or was it just garbage time rest. I can only speculate.


So what does it all mean?

It's pretty easy to look at this and assume I hate KB, but there are several things to point out. I did not think the play calling helped out KB or the offense. I've seen some chatter that the Panthers need to move away from their Air Coryell style this week, and I think that is far too drastic. The offense doesn't need an overhaul, but I want to see a few more adjustments.

During this game, there were plenty of times where a receiver would be breaking wide open JUST as the defense got to Cam. Against less fearsome defensive fronts, those plays would be there. You can bet money on this offense bouncing back against a Falcons team that only has 8 sacks in the last 2 years combined (an exaggeration, but only slightly). However, facing the Vikings, I wanted to see the Panthers attack the middle of the field, and have more options in the short game.

This play is an example of what we saw from the offense after the 1st quarter. Verticals on this play, and many double routes on others. The Vikings, after the game, said they expected these types of routes. To defend, they simply backed their corners 7-10 yards from the LoS, which is typically where double moves are made. Having this type of cushion allowed them to stay in step on a double move, or be in position to make a play on a shorter route. The Panthers needed to get those CBs off their spot by calling more slants, screens, or quick outs.

Remember this type of route? Kelvin Benjamin did not run a single slant by my count against the Vikings.

Another thing I would love to see more of in the future is the back shoulder throw. Often times, we would see Funchess or KB streaking downfield with a defender step in step in single coverage. However, both of these WRs are excellent at the point of catch, so why not challenge the DB? It's not like the concept is new to these guys, as Cam and Funch connected on a strong pitch and catch just last game. Players like Jordy Nelson are never covered when Aaron Rodgers is capable of consistently making those back shoulder throws that are impossible to defend.

Guys, KB is still really, really good.

I'm still extremely high on Kelvin Benjamin, don't get me wrong. I just think against top tier defenses, the Panthers don't mask his weaknesses as well as they should. The Vikings were getting after Cam within seconds, and you need to run precise routes to get open in that amount of time. KB doesn't. In fact, he thrives best against softer defenses that allow Cam 5+ seconds to throw, where KB can find a hole in the coverage. KB elevates his game when the ball is in the air. If it's anywhere near him, chances are he'll make the catch, defended or not. Good route or no, I'm trusting him to find a way to come down with the ball every time he has the opportunity. He's a special player in that regard. But I was just confused why the Panthers asked him to run double routes and verticals all game long when the time wasn't there. He also seemed to become discouraged as the game went on. It's possible he is a type of player who needs to be fed early and often to stay engaged.

Overall, I would say that I'm disappointed in how the Panthers utilized Funchess and KB during this game. These are big bodied receivers who can out muscle defenders for the ball, in traffic, and over the top. Instead, we saw them consistently running double routes and streaks with a front seven that was trying to kill Cam. I love how the Air Coryell offense is utilized, but I want to see the Panthers take what the defense is giving them more often.

I'll come full circle with what I said in the beginning. The Vikings are elite defensively, and have made 3 different teams panic. While there's definitely room for Kelvin Benjamin to improve, I would be extremely surprised if games like the one against the Vikings become the norm. He's simply too talented. The defense dictated the game this past Sunday, and the Panthers will bounce back big time against the Falcons. I'm thinking another 40+ point game. The offense is no where near as bad as the Vikings made them look.

I'll leave you guys this week with the rest of that draft profile on KB. Words that still, very much so, apply:


A tight end-sized, intimidating, big-play receiver with a rare wingspan, Benjamin has the overall strength, length and wide catching radius that will demand extra coverage be rolled his way. Showed continual improvement, is still growing into the position, and possesses the traits to become a legitimate No. 1 receiver. A very intriguing mismatch weapon with ascending talent.

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