2013 Carolina Panthers Position Review: Tight End

Kevin C. Cox

Continuing our series of position-by-position player reviews, today we are going to look at the tight ends.

Greg Olsen

Offensive Statistics: 1001/1030 for 97.2% of offensive snaps, 73 receptions, 816 yards, 6 TDs

At this point, we pretty well know what we have in Olsen... He is a large wide receiver who lines up split-wide and sometimes off-tackle. This season was, statistically, nearly a carbon copy of 2012. Greg posted a career high in receptions, while scoring more touchdowns than he had since his eight in 2009 (with Chicago).

He has been excellent over the last two seasons in ball security, not putting a single fumble on the ground, and he posted a very low drop rate of only 3.6%. He has also been an Iron Man, nay, Thor for the Panthers, coming off the field for only 29 offensive snaps all season. Not surprisingly, most of those missed snaps were in Jumbo sets where the Panthers wanted their best blockers on the field.

This leads into Greg’s one major weakness. He just isn’t a great blocker (ranking as the 27th-best blocking tight end in 2013), and after playing 7 seasons in the NFL it would be the height of foolishness to think he is going to have some great epiphany at this point in his career.

With Smitty on the decline, Olsen is officially Cam’s best weapon as of right now, though, so luckily I doubt he will be asked to do too much blocking going forward.

Grade: B+

Ben Hartsock

Offensive Statistics: 319/1030 for 30.9% of offensive snaps

I always knew Hartsock wasn’t much of a receiver, and the Panthers don’t expect him to be -- as his bread and butter is blocking. Upon researching for this article, however, I was surprised to learn that Hartsock did not have a single reception in 2013. I mean, you have to throw the ball at him by accident at least once or twice a season, amirite?

In many ways, Hartsock is the anti-Olsen. He was the 6th-rated blocking tight end in 2013, despite missing time due to a few nagging injuries. But Hartsock isn’t getting any younger, and health has been a bit of an issue. If this passing offense is going to get any better, the Panthers are going to have to find an upgrade at the second tight end position -- Preferably someone who can be both the blocker that Greg is not and someone who can at least be useful in the passing game.

Personally, barring one of the elite prospects at WR, OT, or DE miraculously falling to the Panthers first pick in the draft, I am hoping the Panthers nab one of the big three tight ends. The Panthers' weaknesses on offense this season were poor blocking and a lack of receiving threats. A dual threat tight end could kill two birds with one stone.

Grade: C

Richie Brockel

Offensive Statistics: 198/1030 for 19.2% of offensive snaps, 1 reception, 12 yards, 1 fumble

Richie seems to be the kind of guy the Panthers coaches and staff like -- much like Nate Chandler. They just keep trying to find ways to get him on the field, even though he isn’t much of a running or a receiving threat. Brockel plays the H-back role, lining up in the backfield at times and on the line in Jumbo packages. He also played on 84% of special team snaps.

He is a Swiss Army knife kind of guy; too small for tight end, not athletic enough for fullback, but with a willingness to do the dirty work and be whatever you need him to be when you need him to be it. That said, guys like him are readily available.

Grade: C-

Brandon Williams

Offensive Statistics: 26/1030 for 2.5% of offensive snaps

There really isn’t enough to grade Brandon on based on this year’s performance. We all know he is a physical freak, and the coaches must see something in him to keep him around, yet he is obviously still very raw or else you would think he would have broken into the lineup more, especially considering the dearth of explosive options in the Panthers’ receiving corps this season. Here’s hoping he shows a lot of growth between this season and next and can earn a bigger role in the offense.

Grade: N/A

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