6 Panthers players who need to impress when the pads go on at camp

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Yetur Gross-Matos
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Yetur Gross-Matos /
4 of 6
Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Ian Thomas /

Ian Thomas – Carolina Panthers TE

Things look quite bleak for Ian Thomas as he attempts to put a disappointing 2020 season behind him. The tight end failed to emerge as the team’s long-term No. 1 option in the first campaign since Greg Olsen was let go and the Carolina Panthers acquired two talented individuals who could immediately go above him on the depth chart as a result.

This is a big challenge for Thomas. But the Panthers don’t appear ready to give up on the former Indiana standout just yet.

Matt Rhule praised Thomas for his application during the early offseason program. He’s also made a few nice catches over the first three days of training camp to further boost the player’s confidence.

It’s clear that Thomas is highly motivated to see out his rookie deal in Carolina. With more than $24 million in salary-cap space remaining, the $2 million in savings regarding his early release isn’t needed providing he impresses further before final roster cuts are made.

Thomas has the size and athleticism to really trouble opposing defenders. Even though this was shown fleetingly in 2020, there were some notable improvements made to the blocking aspect of the game and less pressure on his shoulders might also work in the player’s favor moving forward.