SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Carolina Panthers training camp from Wofford College:
Rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin went high over the middle and hauled down yet another touchdown from quarterback Cam Newton in the final red-zone drills. The first-round pick out of Florida State clearly established himself as the top receiver coming out of training camp. If you ask me, he's the MVP of this camp because Carolina needed somebody to step forward and replace Steve Smith as a big-time weapon. Benjamin did.
Defensive end Frank Alexander was coach Ron Rivera's unofficial camp MVP. Entering his fourth season, Alexander has been suspended for the first four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He looked like a player fighting for his future, practicing harder and more consistently than ever. Rivera's second pick for MVP was defensive end Greg Hardy, whose well-documented off-the-field troubles have him playing for his future. Hardy was everywhere in the final practice, unstoppable on one-on-one pass rush drills against the tackles and guards. He also had two knockdowns in pass coverage, one more than 20 yards deep against tight end Greg Olsen.
Rivera might have second-thoughts about being the pretend quarterback during one-on-one pass-rushing drills. At one point on Tuesday linebacker Thomas Davis blew up his defender and then took a friendly shot at the coach that might have been harder than he intended. "Yes, he did,'' Rivera said. "I told him, 'If I bruise, he and I will have a conversation tomorrow." He liked the intensity Davis showed, though.
Much has been made about the close relationship between Benjamin and Newton. Add Davis and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly to that seemingly inseparable list of couples. "In all honesty, that's almost been since day one,'' Rivera said. "They do spend a lot of time together, and it's almost kind of scary, because as you watch them, you watch the rapport that they develop. And this is what you look for, is the unsaid communications. A guy can look or point, and the other guy knows what the other one's going to do. That type of relationship is key to being successful, whether it's on the offensive side or the defensive side."
Don't be surprised if undrafted wide receiver Philly Brown makes a late push to make the 53-man roster as a receiver and return specialist. Both Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman mentioned him as a player to watch moving forward, particularly as a return specialist. Gettleman still hasn't ruled out that the returners might not be on the roster.
The Panthers returned to Charlotte where they will complete the rest of the preseason preparation. They are off on Wednesday then resume practice on Thursday.