Carolina Panthers will prosper having WR Kelvin Benjamin back from injury

The Panthers' Kelvin Benjamin (13), talking with fellow receiver Devin Funchess, is returning from a knee injury that cost him the 2015 season. AP Photo/Chuck Burton

The Carolina Panthers open training camp July 27 at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Here's a starting lineup projection:


Quarterback (Cam Newton): The reigning NFL MVP threw a career-best 35 touchdown passes and rushed for 10 more in 2015, and he says he hasn’t peaked.

Running back (Jonathan Stewart): Rushed for 989 yards and six touchdowns last season despite missing the last three regular-season games with a foot injury.

Fullback (Mike Tolbert): Few teams utilize the fullback the way Carolina does with Tolbert as a runner, blocker and receiver.

Receiver (Kelvin Benjamin): Led all Carolina wide receivers with 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie in 2014, but suffered a season-ending knee injury during training camp last season.

Receiver (Devin Funchess): Should benefit with the return of Benjamin after catching 31 passes for 473 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie, including seven for 120 yards and a touchdown in the regular-season finale.

Tight end (Greg Olsen): Now one of the league’s best at his position, a two-time Pro Bowl selection who led Carolina last season with 77 catches for 1,104 yards (as well as seven touchdowns).

Left tackle (Michael Oher): Stability in limiting pressure and sacks on Newton’s blind side helped Newton win the league MVP and helped Oher get a three-year contract extension.

Left guard (Andrew Norwell): Has started 22 games over the past two seasons and has been a big part of Carolina's ranking among the top rushing teams during that stretch.

Center (Ryan Kalil): A five-time Pro Bowl selection who has started 112 games since 2008 and become the leader of the offensive line.

Right guard (Trai Turner): The third-round draft pick out of LSU in 2014 was selected to his first Pro Bowl in his second season.

Right tackle (Mike Remmers): He gets a lot of grief for allowing two sacks that resulted in touchdowns against Denver in Super Bowl 50, but the Panthers are 22-4 with him as the starter.


End (Charles Johnson): Second on the team’s all-time sack list with 63.5, he was cut during the offseason to relieve $11 million in cap space and re-signed to a one-year, $3 million deal.

End (Kony Ealy): The third-year player out of Missouri might have been the Super Bowl MVP with three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble had Carolina beaten Denver.

Tackle (Kawann Short): Emerged as one of the best tackles in the NFL, leading Carolina with 11 sacks in 2015 and being selected to his first Pro Bowl.

Tackle (Star Lotulelei): After fully recovering from a foot injury suffered during the 2014 playoffs, the 2013 first-round pick came on strong and became a big part of stopping the run.

Strongside linebacker (Shaq Thompson): Carolina’s 2015 first-round pick played his best football late in the season and in the playoffs.

Middle linebacker (Luke Kuechly): Nicknamed a "Tackling Machine" in college, the three-time Pro Bowl selection led Carolina in tackles for the fourth straight year since entering the league in 2012 despite missing three games with a concussion.

Weakside linebacker (Thomas Davis): The heart of this defense -- and maybe the team -- he finally made the Pro Bowl in his 10th NFL season with four interceptions and four forced fumbles.

Right cornerback (Bene’ Benwikere): Expected to fully make the transition from nickel to every-down corner with 2015 Pro Bowl selection Josh Norman now in Washington and veteran corner Charles Tillman retired.

Left cornerback (James Bradberry): A big (6-1), athletic corner, he was selected in the second round out of Samford to possibly replace Norman and even took over Norman’s number (24).

Strong safety (Kurt Coleman): Was shunned by the Pro Bowl last season despite leading Carolina’s secondary, nicknamed "Thieves Avenue," with seven interceptions.

Free safety (Tre Boston): Expected to step into the role of the starter he thought he would be last season after finishing the 2014 season and postseason with six starts.

Place-kicker (Graham Gano): Ranked second in the NFL in points (146) in 2015 with 30 field goals, third most in Carolina history.

Punter (Mike Scifres): A late offseason addition after being released by San Diego after 13 years with the Chargers, Scifres is coming off a tough 2015 season plagued by an injury to his plant leg.

Deep snapper (J.J. Jansen): The 2013 Pro Bowl selection has been solid for the Panthers the past seven seasons.