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Devin Funchess is 'Kelvin-esque', Ron Rivera says

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Part of the reason Panthers receiver Devin Funchess was on my list of under the radar, rookie of the year candidates coming into the season was the sheer flood of size, power and speed Carolina's receiving core was going to throw at opponents.

Greg Olsen, Kelvin Benjamin and Funchess are all over 6-5. Olsen and Benjamin already proved to be serious mismatches in 2014, and if teams had to roll coverage in one direction, it would either be Funchess or Ted Ginn reaping the benefits.

Benjamin's torn ACL changed all of that and the Panthers needed to do some reorganization on offense. The wide open looks that can jettison a rookie wide receiver into a confident state where he can start to make the game-changing plays were not there for Funchess. He also dropped quite a few balls.

But over the last three weeks, everything seems to be going according to plan for the second-round pick. Ron Rivera even lofted a complement his way on Monday afternoon, calling him "Kelvin-esque."

"I kind of messed up in some of the run game and I was dealing with staying focused and what position I was, so I was overthinking it," Funchess told ESPN. "But overall I did just enough to help get the W."

Since Nov. 8, Funchess has 14 targets, nine catches, 176 yards and a pair of touchdowns. If nothing else, it's adding a much-needed dimension to the Panthers' offense -- Cam Newton's five-touchdown performance on Sunday was no coincidence.

Now, Newton will be eager to see his receiver take the next step.

Funchess can play anywhere on the field, including the slot, which should contribute to more opportunities moving forward -- opportunities to absolutely take over a game. With no top-tier secondaries remaining on Carolina's schedule (Dallas, New York, New Orleans, Atlanta and Tampa Bay) this is the time to accelerate his learning curve into the playoffs.

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