Greg Olsen has been a revelation since he first arrived in Charlotte. He’s been the best tight end they’ve had since Wesley Walls, and he’s been an excellent safety net for Cam Newton. He put up career highs in yardage and receptions last year, and he is set to put up comparable numbers this season, but no one will argue which season has been more successful.
The Carolina Panthers are 8-3 this season compared to a 7-9 record last year. And all of Olsen’s five touchdowns have been critical. None more than his last two, each a go-ahead touchdown late in the game that gave the Panthers the points to prevail.
Olsen has been great all season, but his performance will be especially important on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite some numbers to the contrary, Tampa has a stout defense with playmakers at every level, and they are especially talented in the secondary. Pro Bowlers like Mark Barron and Darrelle Revis will be looking to blanket the fiery Steve Smith and the speedy Ted Ginn Jr., leaving Olsen to pick up the slack in the passing game. Olsen will have to use his superior size to box out the athletic Lavonte David, who has more than enough speed to cover Olsen down the seam.
Even more important than helping out his fellow receivers, Olsen must help take pressure off of Newton and the running game. The Bucs have a beast in the middle in Gerald McCoy, and the Panthers will have their hands full blocking him with their shorthanded offensive line. That penetration in the interior will not only stifle the run game, but will also put quick pressure on Newton. With Carolina running a methodical, conservative offense, Olsen will need to act as a safety net so that Newton can get it out quickly and keep the chains moving. Olsen has been great in clutch situations; now we need to see if he can be clutch for the whole game.