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Panthers' Devin Funchess set for breakout season?

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The buzz surrounding Devin Funchess continues to bubble up as August turns the corner toward September.

At the start of camp, Panthers coach Ron Rivera praised the big-bodied second-year receiver, saying: "He's becoming such a good young pro and understanding what it takes to be successful."

Funchess has wasted no time making good on Rivera's glowing reviews, dominating camp daily and making plays in Carolina's first preseason tilt with a 10-yard touchdown grab from backup passer Derek Anderson.

Multiple beat writers have since emerged to raise up Funchess as the most impressive player at camp, with ESPN's David Newton labeling both the wideout and second-year linebacker Shaq Thompson as Carolina's co-MVPs, writing Tuesday that Funchess "had at least one touchdown catch in each of the past three practices, showing the benefit of his speed and size (6-foot-4). Both should be a force to reckon with in 2016."

Joseph Person of The Charlotte Observer came to the same conclusion after seeing Funchess haul in another score on Monday:

And one day later:

With third-year wideout Kelvin Benjamin being brought back slowly from last year's season-ending ACL tear -- he played just eight snaps against the Ravens -- Funchess has operated as Cam Newton's favorite target all summer and, per Person, "continually got behind the first-team secondary and hauled in bombs from Newton. Then he'd come out the next day and do it again."

"Man, Funch had an amazing camp. And it really started with OTAs and minicamp," linebacker Thomas Davis told Person. "You see the maturity level start to grow. You don't really know what it's going to look like until you get pads on and he comes out here in pads and he does the same thing."

With Benjamin still creeping back into shape, it's Funchess who looms as Carolina's top receiving threat at this stage, a dynamic that has the very real potential to carry over into the regular season.

It's a show of remarkable growth in a young player who openly admitted that he was often underwater as a rookie. The rise of Funchess, though, also points to Rivera and his fellow coaches, who continue to develop young players as well as any team in the league east of Arizona.

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