CHARLOTTE – When the Panthers drafted Devin Funchess in the second round a year after selecting Kelvin Benjamin in the first, the belief was the two big-bodied wide receivers would push one another.
After Benjamin posted more than 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie, he was the clear leader of the wide receiver group when Funchess arrived and went through some early growing pains during the 2015 training camp. Benjamin embodied what Funchess was striving to become.
But following the 2016 training camp, we've seen things shift.
"To be honest with you, where Devin is right now and where Kelvin needs to get to, I think Devin is pushing Kelvin," wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl said. "He's realizing, 'I've got to get back, I've got to push, because this guy (Funchess) is pretty dang good.'
"That's the beauty of it."
In addition to Funchess' rise, the torn ACL Benjamin suffered during last year's training camp is an obvious factor.
"It's a process coming off a surgery like that. But I like what I see," Proehl said. "He's catching the ball great. It's a plan we have getting him in football shape. His wind is good, but now it's different from the rehab and OTAs when you've got the pads on. He's going to be sore in places he hasn't been sore in two years. That's where he continues to progress."
Benjamin and Funchess are the big names at the top of Carolina's depth chart, but there's plenty of talent behind them.
"We've got size and speed. And they all know what we're trying to get accomplished offensively," Proehl said. "I'm pretty blessed as a receivers coach."
Speaking of speed, veteran wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. proved he still has plenty of it during the preseason victory against the Tennessee Titans.
But Ginn brings so much more to the Carolina offense.
"I look at Teddy, and holy mackerel, this dude is in a whole 'nother place as a receiver," Proehl said. "Obviously, last year he stepped in and made plays, and now he's a leader in our room. He can run the whole route tree, he can play X and Z now."
Philly Brown and Damiere Byrd also continue to take steps forward early in their careers.
"Philly, we are using him at Z and F. He just continues to get better, and he knows this offense as well as anybody," Proehl said. "Damiere is a guy where I knew – I saw it last year on the scout team."
With so many weapons at wide receiver, not to mention Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, it begs the question – are there enough targets to go around?
"No, there is never enough," Proehl said with a laugh. "But that's my job as a coach. I have to keep them all engaged and involved and realizing that you have to keep playing and wait your turn. Sometimes, you are going to catch just three or four balls in a game. But that's how it works at this position when you have that many good players on a winning football team.
"With the weapons we have, you have to be unselfish. That's what we preach every day. You're not going to be in this system and catch 10 or 12 balls every game. But these guys have bought in. It's not about personal stats, it's about winning."
View the top photos of Carolina's preseason win at Tennessee by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.