Greg Olsen last season became the first Panthers tight end to lead the team in receiving since 1997 and that was before the team held a fire sale at the wide receiver position.
Coming off the two most prolific receiving seasons by a Panthers tight end, Olsen has as much to gain as anyone following general manager Dave Gettlemans tear-down and rebuild of the wide receiver corps.
And while Olsen said last week hes always thrived when given more opportunities to catch the ball, hes not ready to sound the alarm the way many Panthers fans and at least one of his teammates have.
I know everyone at one point was kind of panicking. Would it have been nice to have those (receivers) back? Of course, Olsen said at a screening of the movie Draft Day.
But I think weve signed a lot of guys that can fill a lot of those roles, Olsen added. Were putting it together. Its hard to judge a team in March. When the season gets closer, that will be a better example of what our team is.
Running back DeAngelo Williams said he was still in shock after the series of events that saw the Panthers release franchise receiving leader Steve Smith and lose wideouts Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon via free agency during a three-day stretch in March.
I joked with people that my fantasy value went up after we got rid of our four receivers, but its the truth, Williams said last week during an appearance on the NFL Networks NFL AM show. I went from probably being drafted in the fifth and sixth round to being in the first round me and Jonathan (Stewart) alike because we have no receivers.
The Panthers have begun to replenish the wideout position, but the tight ends and running backs figure to be featured prominently in 2014 as they were in Mike Shulas first season as offensive coordinator.
Shula is said to want to use more 12 personnel this year one back, two tight ends and two receivers.
Fourth-year quarterback Cam Newton seems most comfortable running two-tight end sets. During his rookie season, when he passed for 4,051 yards to break Peyton Mannings rookie record (since broken by Andrew Luck), Newton had the luxury of throwing to two pass-catching tight ends in Olsen and Jeremy Shockey.
The past two seasons Olsen hasnt had a wing man.
But the Panthers added a potential No. 2 tight end last week when they signed Ed Dickson, who caught 54 passes three seasons ago in Baltimore. They previously re-signed fullback/tight end Richie Brockel and acquired blocking tight end Mike McNeill.
And then theres the tight end/basketball forward/bodybuilder whom Newton calls Swole Bones Brandon Williams, the former Oregon tight end and small-college basketball player who remains something of a project.
But all that tight end inventory and well-paid running back depth wont matter much if the Panthers dont have wideouts consistently catching passes and stretching the field vertically as Williams noted on his NFL Network appearance.
Williams concern isnt necessarily the quality of the new receivers, but the fact they wont get any work with Newton until training camp, when Newton is scheduled to return from ankle surgery.
I just dont want to see eight, nine guys in the box week in and week out because were working on our timing, he said.
Olsen said it was tough to watch Smith go as both a teammate and friend (the two remain neighbors). But hes eager to see what Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood bring to the offense as well as the locker room.
Williams, the franchises all-time rushing leader, was asked whether the receiver shakeup puts more pressure on him.
No, it puts more pressure on the front office because you make these moves and getting rid of our four receivers and then you have to bring in guys, Williams told NFL Network. Not saying that theyre no-name guys, but our guys made their name all on themselves.
But Olsen said Gettleman made a name for himself last year by taking other teams castoffs and turning them into starters and contributors on a 12-win, playoff team.
There is a plan. We have to trust in that, Olsen said. Mr. Gettlemans done an awesome job since hes gotten here in a short time putting pieces in place to fill holes. And doing so with guys other people maybe overlooked. Last year a lot of the guys that came in were in that type of situation and were huge parts of our team.
Three Extra Points on the Panthers
• After Gettleman signed former Falcons free safety Thomas DeCoud to a two-year deal last week, the armchair GMs on Twitter were set on cutting Charles Godfrey. That certainly is a possibility, but the Panthers first have to monitor the status of Godfreys surgically repaired Achilles. Godfrey is a good player when healthy and I dont think its a given hes gone. But I cant see a way he plays at his current $7.1 million cap charge for 2014.
• Ron Rivera was the lone head coach at the meeting last week during which commissioner Roger Goodell, union leader DeMaurice Smith and other officials discussed the leagues workplace environment in light of the bullying scandal in Miami. Rivera, a former Bears linebacker, walks through the Panthers locker room every day, and almost always stops and talks with players. That doesnt make the Panthers immune to the issues that led to the Dolphins situation. But Rivera would know early on if theres a problem, and presumably could act on it.
• Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has sent hand-written notes to fans, media members, players and members of the organization over the years. Richardson last week wrote a letter to high school coaches and administrators in the Carolinas in support of USA Footballs Heads Up program an initiative that stresses proper coaching fundamentals and player safety.
Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson
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