4 Panthers players who must generate early buzz in 2022 camp

(Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports) CJ Henderson
(Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports) CJ Henderson /
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(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ian Thomas /

Ian Thomas – Carolina Panthers TE

Now that Ian Thomas is getting paid like a starting-caliber NFL tight end, his production must increase as a result. The Carolina Panthers placed a significant amount of faith in the former fourth-round selection this offseason with a three-year extension when many believed he’d be shown the door, which is down in no small part to new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s influence in the decision-making process.

Thomas’ blocking has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. But his production from a pass-catching standpoint was an ongoing source of frustration and resulted in just 18 receptions for 188 receiving yards in 2021.

McAdoo is renowned for utilizing tight ends heavily within his system. Thomas certainly has the physical attributes to become a force, but he’ll need a strong start to training camp with second-year-pro Tommy Tremble also vying for an increased role.

Based on how Thomas’ contract is structured, it appears as if there is a two-year audition in place before the Panthers can remove him completely from the equation. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t real urgency to make the improvements needed.

Thomas showed what he was capable of filling for Greg Olsen as a rookie in 2018. These heights have not been reached since, so it’ll be interesting to see how things evolve with McAdoo calling the shots.