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Panthers rave over 'unbelievable' Kelvin Benjamin

Offseason concerns over Kelvin Benjamin's conditioning have given way to a hyper-productive preseason that have the Panthers optimistic about their No. 1 wideout.

Exiting Thursday night's win over the Jaguars, Cam Newton -- who saw his first action of the preseason -- raved about Benjamin, who hauled in a 9-yard scoring strike to cap the quarterback's lone drive of the night.

"Benji has had an unbelievable training camp," Newton said, per the team's official website. "I do see growth out of him and we need that growth out of him because he is pretty much the leader of that room."

Benjamin was dogged during the offseason over worries that he'd grown "a little heavy," per coach Ron Rivera. During the preaseason, though, the 6-foot-5, 245-pounder has used his frame to attack cover men with eight catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns in limited work.

"I think Kelvin's playing very, very physical," Rivera said. "He's running really good routes, he's a great target, and he presents a good target to the quarterback. He's making the catches and getting upfield. He doesn't waste a lot of steps once he catches the ball. He knows to get north and south, and he does that very quickly."

Benjamin's leap is a much-needed development for Newton, who is winding his way back from shoulder surgery but already looked in sync with his top target against the Jaguars.

With rookie sensation Christian McCaffrey added to the attack alongside fellow rookie Curtis Samuel, the Panthers have options in the passing game. Still, the potential of this offense changes completely when Benjamin is at his best.

"He is a complete receiver," Newton said, who went on to rave about Benjamin's ability to also "block and be effective in the running game," saying: "You see Benji on his route and he tries to stick his nose in there and throw a block. It sets the tone for our team."

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