Now that we are about halfway through the regular season, it is time to start considering which players are deserving of the Pro Bowl. For this series, we will look at the three most deserving candidates for each team. Obviously, some teams will have more or less than three players selected to the Pro Bowl, but for simplicity purposes, we will discuss the top three either way. Here are the top Pro Bowl candidates for the Carolina Panthers.
Top Midseason Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl Candidates
This is a no brainer. Simply put, Luke Kuechly is the best middle linebacker in football. He is the heart and soul of Carolina’s defense and his leadership and skill drive the whole unit. The former Boston College Eagle is an absolute tackle machine, racking up double digits in nearly every game this year.
Kuechly’s football smarts are off the charts and he has the capability to elevate the whole defense. Kuechly is a highly effective linebacker against the run, possessing the strength to bring down barreling running backs looking to run some guys over. He is also a very skilled player in coverage, capable of holding down a zone or sticking with a matched up player.
When it comes to pass catching tight ends, not many are above Greg Olsen. The former Miami Hurricane is the Panthers leading receiver with 45 receptions and 673 yards. He’s on pace for about 1,200 receiving yards by season’s end, which would be a career high. Olsen has proven to be a constant mismatch for defenses and has been an extremely reliable target for quarterback Cam Newton.
Olsen is almost like an oversized wide receiver with his talented catching abilities. His yards per catch average is a very solid 15.0, which goes to show that Olsen is capable of picking up good chunks of yardage every time he touches the ball. If the game is on the line all the Panthers need to do is get the ball into the hands of their talented tight end and he’s got a good shot at finding his way to the end zone.
Trai Turner, the Panthers young offensive guard, has shown nothing but improvement in his first three years in the league. This season the former LSU Tiger has been solid in protecting Newton. Turner has been a key piece in holding the middle of the line together. He has probably been the Panthers best offensive lineman.
What should earn Turner a Pro Bowl nod is how good he’s become in these first two and a half seasons compared to his peers. There are linemen who have been in the league eight years who don’t block as well as Turner.
Kelvin Benjamin is the Panthers leading wide receiver with 36 receptions for 543 yards and four touchdowns. After missing his sophomore season with a torn ACL, Benjamin has finally returned to action. Newton’s chemistry with the massive six-foot-5 receiver looks to be as strong as it was in Benjamin’s rookie year. The former Florida State Seminole proved his skill by having one of his best outings of the year against the vaunted Denver Broncos defense. In that game Benjamin caught six passes for 91 yards and scored a touchdown.