New York Giants rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s one-handed touchdown catch Sunday was about as good as it gets.
But Carolina Panthers rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin wasn’t ready to call it perfection.
“It was about a 9,” Benjamin said.
What could possibly make it a 10?
“I don’t know,” Benjamin said with a smile. “Catch it with no eyes looking.”
Benjamin and Beckham are part of one of the best receiving draft classes in recent memory. Those two, along with Buffalo’s Sammy Watkins, Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, New Orleans’ Brandin Cooks, Philadelphia’s Jordan Matthews and Arizona’s John Brown, all have made waves for their respective teams.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he’s not surprised by how well the class has performed. “I really think (receivers coach) Ricky (Proehl) had it pegged,” Rivera said. “I thought our scouts did a nice job presenting the list, and I thought Ricky did a nice job going out and spending as much time as he did (on visits with receivers). Ricky was one of the guys that (general manager) Dave (Gettleman) and I talked to prior to the draft starting and really felt this was going to be a strong draft class.”
Beckham’s catch has been widely regarded as the top catch in the NFL this season, and many ranked it among the best ever.
But Rivera was quick to point out that Benjamin has had a few eye-popping plays as well. Benjamin, drafted 28th overall and the fifth receiver taken, has had at least four “wow” catches this year.
The first came during the preseason when he caught a touchdown against the Bills while falling to the ground. Benjamin rated that one “about a 7.”
He caught a touchdown pass against the Bucs in Week 1 behind the cornerback’s back.
Against the Lions, Benjamin skied for a pass and contorted his body while making a one-handed grab. And two weeks ago against the Falcons he tipped a pass to himself while again falling to the ground to make the touchdown reception.
“You don’t practice one-handers,” Benjamin said. “One-handed catches are just reaction catches. You just go into that zone in that moment and boom.”
But Benjamin tired of reporters trying to get him to compare his catches this season to the one Beckham made against the Cowboys.
“Why are y’all always trying to compare things? It was a great catch,” he said.
Next up: Rivera said he won’t have an idea on this weekend’s starter at right tackle until at least Wednesday.
“This is going to be a work in progress,” Rivera said. “We’re going to take a look at some other guys, pretty much the same guys we were looking at today. Wednesday will be a pretty hard practice and give us a good idea of who we’re going to go with there.”
Rivera has said they’ll try out four players at the position vacated by Nate Chandler, who went to the injured reserve last week. Amini Silatolu, Mike Remmers, Chris Scott and David Foucault will get work at right tackle.
Monday, Silatolu got the majority of first-team reps in the portion of practice open to the media. Rivera said the team will review the tape from the practice and reduce the competition to two.
Silatolu said he expects to be the starter Sunday.
Hesitating Brown: In case you haven’t noticed, rookie returner Philly Brown likes to hesitate just after fielding a punt. Brown said that pause helps him see the field and make defenders miss.
“You hopefully have enough time to take a peek down the field and basically just be patient and try to find a crease and trust that the dudes in front of you get it done,” Brown said last week. “I hesitate on purpose just to get the people running down at me a little indecisive, have them not know what I’m doing. They’re running full speed and I’m at a pause, which means I start faster than they can change direction. That’s just helping me set up my blocks and make it easier on my guys blocking.”
Brown ranks ninth in the NFL at 9.6 yards per return.
Injury update: Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (ankle) and offensive guard Andrew Norwell (leg) did not practice Monday.
Rivera expects Norwell to practice Wednesday, though he was less optimistic for Lotulelei. The second-year tackle sprained his ankle against Philadelphia and hasn’t played or practiced since.
Rookie cornerback Bené Benwikere (ankle) practiced Monday and Rivera seemed confident he’ll be ready to play this week against the Vikings. Benwikere hasn’t played since suffering a high ankle sprain against the Bears in Week 5.