Week 2 spotlight: Will Ian Thomas be more involved against the Bucs?

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Ian Thomas
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Ian Thomas /

Ian Thomas was barely used by the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, but will the tight end be more heavily involved at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

The Carolina Panthers are expecting big things from Ian Thomas this season after they parted ways with prolific veteran Greg Olsen in free agency.

Thomas has been waiting for this opportunity since entering the league as a fourth-round pick in 2018. But he was virtually anonymous for the Carolina Panthers in their 34-30 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1 and more will be expected as the campaign progresses.

There could be some mitigating factors as to why Thomas didn’t see anything more than two targets in the game. He was dealing with a toe issue all week at practice that might have hampered him on the field. And the number of offensive weapons elsewhere on the Panthers means that chances might be limited until everything clicks into place.

Should the Carolina Panthers do more with Ian Thomas?

Thomas did collect both balls thrown his way by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for 16 yards. The player also displayed his surprising blocking prowess by making some nice running lanes for All-Pro back Christian McCaffrey in the second half.

That being said, if Thomas wants to get to the same sort of level as Olsen during his time as a starter, then much more will be needed. He has all the tools necessary to make a real go out of this opportunity. But putting it all together on the field when it matters most is another matter entirely.

Getting the right sort of balance on offense will be critical for the Panthers. The more production Carolina gets from their wide receivers and McCaffrey, the more space Thomas will get to work in.

The tight end position was an area that the Saints got plenty of joy against the Bucs in Week 1. Jared Cook caught five passes for 80 yards during the contest and this should give Thomas plenty of reasons to be encouraged ahead of the matchup.

It might only be early in the season, but Thomas needs that big breakout game sooner rather than later. There is a lot riding on the upcoming campaign for the player in the penultimate year of his rookie deal and he will want to leave no doubt that he is the man to occupy the Panthers’ No. 1 tight end position for the foreseeable future.

Little is expected of Carolina in terms of picking up a victory at the Bucs due to the differing ambitions of both organizations in 2020. This should allow them a certain freedom to go out and express themselves in the hope of pulling off a significant upset to get them up and running.

Thomas is one player in particular who just needs to relax and let his talent do the talking. Having such expectations on his shoulders could see him become hesitant. But the Panthers also need to do a better job of coming up with the right sort of plays that gets the most out of his outstanding potential.

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There is a long way to go in the 2020 season and players who don’t see much in the way opportunities initially should come to the fore once everyone gets up to speed. Thomas fits into the category after a quiet outing in Week 1 and this Sunday’s contest represents a good opportunity to make more of an impact.