Carolina Panthers

Panthers TE Greg Olsen is out, but his backup says he’s ready to fill the void

Carolina Panthers tight end Ed Dickson will be asked to fill in for Greg Olsen, who will miss the next 6-8 weeks with a broken foot.
Carolina Panthers tight end Ed Dickson will be asked to fill in for Greg Olsen, who will miss the next 6-8 weeks with a broken foot. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Usually the media surrounds Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen in the locker room after games, but Sunday was a little different. The media swarmed Olsen like normal – but they also went after the man sitting next to him, backup tight end Ed Dickson.

That’s because for the near future, Dickson won’t be the backup any more.

Olsen came off during the second quarter of Carolina’s 9-3 win over Buffalo, and when he re-emerged later in the game, it was on crutches with a boot on his right foot. After the game, Olsen confirmed he had broken it. A source told the Observer’s Jourdan Rodrigue that Olsen is likely out 6-8 weeks with the injury, but that he is still awaiting further evaluation.

In the meantime, Dickson said all the right things on Sunday. Or rather, the same thing over and over.

“It’s tough to lose a player like Greg Olsen, but next man up,” Dickson, an eight-year veteran out of Oregon, said. “I’m pretty sure they’re gonna add a little depth, but there’s no replacing a guy like Greg Olsen. I’m gonna say that for probably the fourth time.

“There’s no replacing a guy like that, but I’m up for the challenge. I relish the challenge.”

Carolina Panthers tight and Greg Olsen explains how he broke his foot during the first quarter of Sunday's home opener against the Buffalo Bills.

The question is how capable Dickson is truly filling in for Olsen. Olsen, of course, has finished each of the last three seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving, making him one of the NFL’s best receiving tight ends. Olsen is one of quarterback Cam Newton’s security blankets, and now those targets will go to Dickson.

That’s not to say that Dickson can’t replicate some of what Olsen did; it’s just that he hasn’t recently needed to. His second year in the league, Dickson caught 54 balls for 528 yards and five touchdowns. He started every game that year for the Baltimore Ravens, and the production followed suit.

But since then, Dickson hasn’t come close to replicating those numbers. He’s never put up more than 275 yards in a season since then, and those numbers are even lower since he joined the Panthers in 2014. He’s had 115, 121 and 134 yards each of the past three seasons, his numbers dropping in accordance with Olsen’s surge.

Sunday offered a glimpse of what the Panthers offense might look like with Dickson filling in for Olsen. Dickson had two catches for 26 yards, one of them a 20-yard gash down the middle of the field. The promise is there, but now Dickson will have to step up in a major way.

“I have full faith in Ed,” quarterback Cam Newton said. “Ed (Dickson) is ready to blossom. He’s a diamond in the rough.

“I don’t want to put too much on Ed, but ... we are going to be expecting big things for him and knowing he’s going to pick the gun up and keep shooting.”

At least in Olsen, he has someone good to turn to for tips.

“I’m gonna hold him down, get whatever I can,” Dickson said of Olsen. “I told (offensive coordinator Mike) Shula, I know the jersey number doesn’t say 88 but don’t change the playbook. I want all the opportunities I can, and I want the best opportunity for us to win games.

“I’m not the offensive coordinator. I don’t make my own plays, but I’m here, I’m ready, and I’m willing to do it.”

Brendan Marks: 704-358-5889, @brendanrmarks

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