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Bene' Benwikere working to lead Panthers secondary

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The Carolina Panthers could very well be starting rookies at two of their three starting cornerback slots in 2016, which means it's time for Bene' Benwikere to grow up fast.

The 24-year-old former fifth-round pick fractured his leg in Week 14 last year, forcing him to miss the playoff run that ended in a Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos. By the time he took the practice field again, Carolina was operating without two of its best cornerbacks from last season -- Josh Norman and Charles Tillman.

Now, Benwikere is rehabbing his leg and helping to break in the two rookies that may start alongside him: Zack Sanchez and James Bradberry.

"I get to go through individuals with them, get to do walk-throughs with them," Benwikere recently said, via the Charlotte Observer, "so there's a lot of things from my standpoint that I can teach them.

"When we're watching film, there's a lot of things I can show them that happened to me previously, especially Zack (Sanchez) playing nickel."

Benwikere, and the Panthers in general, will be a great test case in the talent vs. scheme debate this year. The team lost Jared Allen to retirement, Tillman to a torn ACL and free agency and Norman to a contract dispute. While the league's best front seven still trumps all, there was a loud segment of the NFL population suggesting that Norman's rise to elite status was more the product of Sean McDermott's defense than anything else.

While that might not be fair -- excellent pass rushes throughout history have lent themselves to aggressive corner play -- it does open Carolina up for examination in 2016. Benwikere seems ready to be both student and teacher.

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