Training camp is getting closer and closer, which is great news for the Carolina Panthers fans who’ve been waiting since January to see their team in action again. In the lead up to camp, we’ve been previewing what story lines you should be following at each position. This week, we’ve already previewed the quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Now we move onto tight end, which is an important offensive position, even if Jimmy Graham considers it an insult.
The Panthers had a dynamic duo of tight ends during Cam Newton’s rookie season as Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey combined for 995 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Shockey wasn’t re-signed the following offseason and Carolina has struggled to find a complement to Olsen ever since. Considering Olsen lead the team in most receiving stats in 2013 and the Panthers have an all new group of wide receivers, it’ll be important to find someone that can take some of the attention away.
So who can be that guy? There are a few options:
-Ed Dickson: The soon-to-be 27-year old Dickson is the most experienced option, having spent four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens before signing with Carolina this offseason. In those four years, he caught 111 passes, including 54 in the 2011 season.
-Brandon Williams: Williams looks to be the next former basketball player to become a great tight end in the NFL, following in the footsteps of Graham, Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, and Julius Thomas among others. The former Portland Bible College hoops player surprisingly made the roster last year but failed to make much of an impact because he’s so raw. However, his size (6’4″ 250 lbs) and talent speak for themselves. With a full NFL year under his belt, he may be ready to emerge.
-Mike McNeil: In three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams, McNeil has one career start and has caught five passes. The former undrafted free agent seems like a long shot to have a major impact on the team.
-DC Jefferson: Jefferson was a seventh round pick with the Arizona Cardinals last year and had minimal impact before being released for being arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. Like McNeil, he’s a long shot.