5 Panthers players who need to realize their potential in 2021

Dean Jones
(Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) Donte Jackson
(Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) Donte Jackson /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) Ian Thomas /

Ian Thomas – Carolina Panthers TE

Another player facing a make-or-break summer is Ian Thomas. The tight end suffered more than most last year with such a disrupted offseason period and this was reflected with some poor production in the immediate aftermath of Greg Olsen’s retirement.

Thomas didn’t do enough to be considered a viable long-term option. He was rarely involved in the passing game and his status on the roster is more uncertain than ever following the arrivals of tight end duo Dan Arnold and Tommy Tremble.

The Carolina Panthers have thrown the gauntlet down to Thomas. This has brought around a positive response from the former Indiana star during the early portion of voluntary OTAs, with head coach Matt Rhule praising his attitude and explosiveness during team drills.

Now, a glowing recommendation from Rhule is an ongoing joke among fans, who see it as more of a kiss of death than anything else considering what’s gone on since his appointment.

However, Thomas can take a substantial amount of confidence from the fact he is getting noticed for his application. It’s a testament to the player’s character that he is trying to make up for perhaps getting too complacent with no competition in 2020, which is obviously not the case now.

The potential is there from Thomas’ perspective – we saw as much during his rookie season – but truly realizing it is going to be pivotal for the player next season.