Flashback to the start of the 2015 season and you would have thought the Carolina Panthers were in turmoil. Despite winning the NFC South, they were coming off the back of a 7-8 record in 2014 and another elimination in the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs.
What made matters worse was that their star wide receiver coming off a great rookie season, Kelvin Benjamin, tore his ACL part way through the preseason, placing the possibility of success in serious doubt.
However, with the regular season now over, the Panthers' fortunes have changed as they now sit on a 15-1 record, in the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs once again but this time with home-field advantage throughout the postseason. To add more good news, Benjamin looks on the right track to recovery.
SIGN UP NOW
Want to become a GMS writer? Sign up now and submit a 250 word test article: https://gms.to/haveyoursay4
Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer tweeted out a video today showing the wide receiver performing some light training and moving well with his feet only four months after tearing his ACL, which will bring much delight to Panthers fans.
Jones also mentioned in a separate tweet that: "Benjamin has already started running since tearing ACL on Aug. 19," but he was also told this doesn't mean he will be allowed to compete in the team's Divisional Round game next week against either the Seattle Seahawks, the Washington Redskins, or the Green Bay Packers.
In his rookie season, Benjamin eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards and caught nine touchdowns from 73 receptions. He probably would have improved greatly on these numbers this season if he wasn't injured, as tight end Greg Olsen was the Panthers' top receiver with 1,104 receiving yards and seven touchdowns from 77 receptions.
A lot of promise is still surrounding Benjamin in 2016 despite the ACL injury. This is because of how well Cam Newton has managed to lead the team to the playoffs comfortably with a brilliant regular season record without him.
The 26-year-old quarterback threw for 3,837 yards, 35 touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions, his best season ever for the Panthers in terms of touchdowns and interceptions thrown.