Inside the Panthers

Panthers in top 100 list so far include ‘matchup nightmare,’ ‘freakish athlete’

Greg Olsen was one of just two tight ends in the NFL to top 1,000 receiving yards in 2016.
Greg Olsen was one of just two tight ends in the NFL to top 1,000 receiving yards in 2016. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

With the rankings nearing the halfway mark, two Carolina Panthers have made NFL Network’s 2017 Top 100 players list, a list chosen by polling the league’s pros, so far.

This week, tight end Greg Olsen made the list at No. 67, his third straight year on the list. Last season, he ranked No. 38.

That likely reflects the Panthers’ plunge from the 2015 Super Bowl year to last year’s 6-10 record more than Olsen’s season.

He’s definitely putting up numbers that they will consider for the Hall of Fame one day.

Captain Munnerlyn on teammate Greg Olsen

Linebacker Thomas Davis, whose selection was announced earlier this month, ranks 89th on the list this season, a drop from No. 54.

Olsen led the Panthers in passing yards with 1,073 yards on 80 catches with three touchdowns. It was his third straight season with more than 1,000 receiving yards, which no other tight end in the NFL had done before.

“He’s definitely putting up numbers that they will consider for the Hall of Fame one day,” teammate Captain Munnerlyn, with Minnesota last season, said.

Olsen was one of just two tight ends in the league to top 1,000 receiving yards. Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, with 1,125 yards, was the other.

Olsen’s peers heaped on the praise in the NFL Network’s tribute video.

“You can be in a great position in covering him, but somehow, some way, he always ends up finding the football,” said Tampa Bay linebacker David Lavonte. “He’s always a matchup nightmare.”

Olsen’s leadership skills and toughness – he hasn’t missed a game in nine seasons – impressed Green Bay defensive lineman Mike Daniels.

“I’m sure he’s been in some serious pain and still played through it ... because his teammates were depending on it,” Daniels said.

In 2015, Olsen finished the regular season with 1,104 yards on 77 catches with seven touchdowns. He added 231 yards and a touchdown in the postseason.

THOMAS_DAVIS_06
Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis’ tenacity, athleticism and leadership skills impressed his peers. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

THOMAS DAVIS

Like Olsen, Davis has done something no other NFL player had done before, return from three ACL tears. Davis, who led the Panthers in tackles with 106 in 2016, made the list for the second time.

Despite having won bigger honors – he was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year for 2014 for his community work and made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2015 – Davis told NFL Network that making the top 100 list last season for the first time was still gratifying.

“I’m not ... one of those guys who try to act like I didn’t get excited about it,” Thomas said.

Davis’ tenacity, athleticism and leadership skills impressed his peers.

“He’s just a freakish athlete,” teammate Charles Johnson said.

“I really like Thomas Davis,” said Denver linebacker Todd Davis. “I just really like the way he plays the game. He’s tough and he’s hard-nosed. ... I love the way he hits.”

NFL.com releases 10 new names each week. The next group of 10 players will be announced Monday night on the NFL Network.

Last year, seven Panthers still with the team made the top 100 following Carolina’s Super Bowl season.

Quarterback Cam Newton was voted the league’s best player. Linebacker Luke Kuechly made the top 10 at No. 7. Defensive tackle Kawann Short came in at 58, center Ryan Kalil was No. 79 and running back Jonathan Stewart was No. 86.

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