5 under-the-radar Panthers players that must step up at the Cowboys

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ian Thomas
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ian Thomas /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ian Thomas /

Ian Thomas – Carolina Panthers TE

The news of Dan Arnold’s trade to the Jacksonville Jaguars as part of the C.J. Henderson deal came as a shock. He hasn’t been around the Carolina Panthers for long after signing in free agency and seemed to be developing encouraging chemistry with quarterback Sam Darnold over the first three games.

This is down to positional importance and nothing more. But the Panthers now have to rely on Ian Thomas and Tommy Tremble stepping up in the passing game with Arnold out of the equation.

Thomas has seen the field plenty in 2021 without generating more than four targets. His work in the blocking game seems to be coming on all the time, but Carolina needs more moving forward.

Just why Thomas hasn’t been involved as much compared to his rookie campaign is anybody’s guess. He has shown inconsistencies in getting open and catching the ball, but the Panthers must have some faith in the 2018 fourth-round pick for him to still be on the roster.

That might not be the case for much longer with Thomas out of contract in 2022. Now that Arnold isn’t hogging the tight end targets, it could end up being his final audition for a potential extension.

However, there is plenty of fans who want the Panthers to throw Tremble in at the deep end. Something that could hinder Thomas’ bid for more opportunities from Darnold.