One big change ushered in with Ron Rivera is the bravado and confidence he displays in talking about his players. It takes rather large *redacted* to stake your first season in the NFL on a rookie QB; especially one who was seen as mechanically flawed as Cam Newton– yet Rivera did. Not many would laud your Pro Bowl Center for taking our a full page ad extolling the Panthers' virtues– yet Rivera did. Now BAMF has turned his eye to tight end Greg Olsen, telling Steve Reed of the Associated Press that he thinks Olsen can join rarefied air -- only breathed by Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski -- as both were 1,000 yard receivers last year.
"This will be his first real opportunity with us to step up and be the starting tight end and be the guy," Rivera said. "You watch him catch footballs and you watch him run routes and you see those traits that say you can fit right into that group. We're excited about it."
Good enough to challenge Gronkowski and Graham?
"It's possible," Rivera said. "We spread the ball around so much in this offense, but I really think it's possible for a guy to have big games and put quite a few of them together and have some big numbers."
The plan isn't surprising, the comparison is. Most have felt comfortable giving Olsen a significant bump in 2012; your truly projected a 700-800 yard season from him, now that Jeremy Shockey is no longer in Carolina. Moreover this kind of talk from Rivera is noteworthy because by reading between the lines it tells us how little Gary Barnidge will be featured in the offense.
No longer will the Panthers lean on the 2TE sets we saw last year, instead relying on a true 3rd receiver to step up. As it stand Louis Murphy seems poised for this role, and thus far has looked very good in preseason. As for Greg Olsen putting up the kind of numbers suggested by comparing him to Gronkowski and Graham? I'm not so sure, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't cross our fingers.