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Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers 2014 Tight Ends Sporting a New Look

It seems like a distant memory since Cam Newton was firing bullets to Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey, as the Carolina Panthers were humming along in their two-tight end sets.  Carolina now has two players that are flying under the radar when it comes to potential weapons for Cam to utilize in the receiving game, and it’s time you get to know them.

“We’ve got a plethora of veteran tight ends … With an extra tight end in the game, you can do so many different things. You can line up as the fullback, as another wide receiver, or as a wing tight end. It’s going to give us a lot more versatility on what we do.” - Ron Rivera

Ed Dickson spent the previous four years in Baltimore as the heir apparent to former tight end, Todd Heap.  Dickson progressed in his first two years for the Ravens, and put up a very promising second year campaign in 2011.  During his sophomore season, Dickson put up over 500 yards and five touchdowns.  This had Joe Flacco and the coaching staff intrigued for the potential that he flashed that season. However, Dickson hit a rough patch the next two seasons, only notching 500 total yards, and one touchdown in 2012 and 2013 combined.  The emergence of Dennis Pitta and Dickson’s lack of focus led to his demise in the pecking order of receivers.

Often times a change of location is all a player needs to rediscover their groove.  Sometimes players don’t fit a system anymore or are not meshing with personnel, so their production dips, even though the talent is still there.

Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

If OC Mike Shula can return to trotting out two tight ends into his formations, I think Dickson can rekindle the fire inside and excel once again.

Brandon Williams has been the silent ninja on the sideline that Panther fans have waited anxiously to see materialize.  In 2013,  he made appearances in several games, but did not touch the ball in any of the contests.

If you are unfamiliar with Brandon Williams, you are not alone.  He was a training camp standout last summer that played more basketball than football in college, but his athleticism and build caught the eye of our coaching staff.

Williams is a pass-catching threat at tight end that utilizes his basketball attributes to his advantage.  Standing at 6’4″, 250-pounds, he patiently honed his craft over the past year and lived in Greg Olsen’s shadow.  His work ethic and upside kept him on the roster in 2013, but he will need to take that next step in his evolution as a player if he wants to remain on the 2014 roster…. and he will.

Did you honestly know who Julius Thomas was prior to last season?

Thomas is a  6’4″, 251-pound TE for the Denver Broncos that had one reception for five yards during his entire two-year career prior to 2013.  The switch turned on for him in 2013, gaining almost 800 yards and 12 touchdowns.  His strength coming out of college was playing basketball at Portland State and entered the league as a raw player with a high ceiling.  Hmmm, sound familiar?

Does this mean Brandon Williams will enjoy a similar path to success as Thomas in 2014?  Not necessarily, but the way the NFL is utilizing the TE position with these uber-athletic receiving tight ends now, the 26-year old Williams definitely has potential to duplicate Thomas’ production.

Ed Dickson and Brandon Williams join the talented veteran Greg Olsen to form a lethal trifecta of weapons for Cam to have at his disposal.  Dickson, a 6’4″, 245-pound speedy tight end out of Oregon has the wheels to move the chains.  He can open the seam up deep and stretch the linebackers out, allowing Olsen to eat up the middle of the field.  Dickson might not have the surest of hands, but his presence will keep defenses honest since he is capable of burning them.

New Orleans and Atlanta run a base 3-4 defense and try to maximize their backers as pass rushers and create mismatches using speed and deception.  An amazing way to counter-punch the 34 defense, is by bringing in two tight ends to offset and often force the defense to show their cards pre-snap.  By moving the tight ends in motion and placing them off the line, stacking them on one side, or lining them on the far outside, opposing defenses mistakingly show their plan.  Once the ball is snapped, having two athletic tight ends dragging, running double moves, and blazing downfield disrupts the flow of the defense.

In addition to our divisional enemies, teams like San Francisco, Arizona and Green Bay also run 3-4 defenses.

At the end of the day, Greg Olsen is our #1 TE, so we aren’t in dire need of a new starting tight end like we are at WR.  Dickson and Williams will rotate in opposite Olsen, and having two capable threats at TE can also allow Olsen to catch his breath.  Honestly, with the way we want to run the ball, I could easily see us toss all three out there in the red zone, with one back and Kelvin Benjamin as the lone receiver.  Good luck defending all of that height and athleticism.

I miss the dual-TE wrinkle that we opened up in 2011 and look forward to its’ triumphant return in 2014.  Many experts and analysts think our offense took giant leaps backward this offseason.  I’d prefer to cruise on stealth mode with the experts for as long as we can get away with it, because in the end, we are a more complete offense in 2014.

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