Jun 7, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (88) catches a pass during organized training activities at the team

Carolina Panthers' Tight End Situation

Last season, rookie quarterback Cam Newton had two viable options on every play: throw to Steve Smith, or the tight ends.

Carolina tight ends Greg Olsen and Jeremey Shockey combined for a total of 82 catches and 995 yards. Cam loves relying on his tight ends in the middle of the field, and hopes he can place the ball so they can stretch the pass out.

This season the corps will look a bit different. Jeremey Shockey is gone and Gary Barnidge is back from injury. The team has quite a few other tight ends to choose from, but the following players are most likely to be your top 3.

Greg Olsen

Olsen was the No. 3 receiver in terms of yards, and No. 2 in terms of catches last season. Without Shockey present, Olsen will be Cam Newton’s go to guy. He was never frequently used in Chicago, due to the offense run there, but he has the potential to be a top 7 TE in the league.

Newton has developed in the offense at the same speed as Olsen, and that makes Olsen a favorite for Cam. Expect Olsen to play about 95% of the snaps for all the TE’s. He will split time with Barnidge, but nothing significant.

Prediction: 80 Catches for 950 yards and 7 TD’s.

Gary Barnidge

Barnidge was supposed to be the next thing for the Panthers, until an injury sidelined for the entire season. The coaches talk very highly of him, and without much production history, that’s what I have to listen to.

He will most likely be the No. 2 TE for the team, and over time could develop into one hell of a TE. Expect Barnidge to work towards a No. 1 spot in the future.

Prediction: 35 catches for 450 yards and 2 TD’s

Ben Hartsock

Hartsock is a journeyman TE, and has played the blocking TE role for most of his career. I don’t see him being an offensive weapon, but since the loss of Jeff King, Carolina has been without a blocking TE.

He will probably be listed at No. 3, and only used in situational roles and run plays. If he can manage to block as he did in New York, he will hold that position without any competition.

Prediction: 12 catches for 96 Yards

Well, there you have it guys. These are the top 3 TE’s the Panthers have to work with. Hopefully the team can use them wisely so that Smith and the receivers and have breaks now and then.

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Tags: Ben Hartsock Carolina Panthers Gary Barnidge Greg Olsen

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