Can Ian Thomas fill Greg Olsen’s shoes?

Greg Olsen is one of many seasoned veterans the Carolina Panthers have let go this offseason as part of their rebuild.

He was loved by fans and offered the Panthers offense one of the NFL’s best intermediate targets. During his nine years in Carolina, he became one of the first in the league to receive tight ends and was a huge piece of the puzzle to bring the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2016.

Now Olsen will try to do the same for Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks as he nears the end of his career.

So how do you replace a guy like Olsen? Well, it is very difficult. The Panthers have four tight ends on the roster and none of them have the skills of Greg Olsen. Seth DeValve was signed in free agency but will more than likely be used primarily as a tight blocking end. Chris Manhertz has been in the league since 2014 and only managed six receptions for 90 yards – safe enough to say, he’s not the guy. Temmarick Hemingway has moved on and left the training squad throughout his career and has been dropped a few times along the way.

Still, if there’s one guy on the list who could fill the role of Olsen, it’s Indiana third-year man Ian Thomas.

In his first two seasons in the league, his numbers wouldn’t indicate he’s capable of being a legitimate weapon in the passing game, but that was largely due to the fact that Olsen had drawn the entire ‘Warning. Now that Olsen is no longer in Carolina, Thomas has a chance to shine.

The question is: will Thomas one day be half of what Olsen was? It’s hard to say, but my gut tells me no. It’s a really solid option for Joe Brady to use on the offensive, but releasing big numbers just doesn’t seem to be in his DNA.

Thomas doesn’t have great speed, but neither does Greg Olsen. However, road racing and good hands are what made Olsen so valuable. These are two areas of Thomas’ game that have yet to be developed. With Matt Rhule’s success in player development, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Thomas progress, but I wouldn’t define that as an expectation for him. With an increased role progression will be inevitable, but how far can Thomas elevate his game remains an unanswered question.

Do you think Ian Thomas can put together a production similar to Greg Olsen’s? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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