Big Changes at Tight End for the Carolina Panthers

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, I heard rumblings from sources that the tight end position would likely be a target for the Carolina Panthers, maybe in the first round. In fact, tight end Hunter Henry was a possible first round selection for Carolina. The Panthers did not select Henry, mainly due to high caliber player Vernon Butler falling into their lap, but they did walk away from the NFL draft with a tight end.

In the seventh round the Carolina Panthers selected Beau Sandland out of Montana State. Sandland also had spent time at Miami, a school known for its exceptional tight ends.

Targeting Sandland was no accident or happenstance. The Panthers were genuinely interested in improving the quality of play from their tight end corps, particularly the second tight end across from Greg Olsen in two tight end sets. Sources tell me the Panthers felt the 2016 draft was unusually devoid of offensive talent. The fact that they did choose an offensive player in the draft tells me how highly the Panthers think of Beau Sandland.

NFL veteran Ed Dickson has performed adequately for the Panthers, but at times has looked lackluster. Brilliant plays like the fumble recovery in Tampa Bay or the amazing bending pass and catch from Cam Newton from last season are somewhat diminished by dropped passes and less than stellar blocking.

Dickson, a former third round pick by Baltimore, could be replaced as soon as this season by Beau Sandland.

Carolina Panthers Beau Sandland

Carolina Panthers Beau Sandland

Sandland has already started to shine in Carolina Panthers practices. Head Coach Ron Rivera always says how he wants to see rookies show flashes immediately. Sandland did just that with one of the nicest plays of all offseason practices. In the front right corner of the end zone, Sandland dove and brought in a Derek Anderson pass with one hand, clutched it to his body and landed in bounds. This turned the heads of everyone on the field, Ron Rivera and Dave Gettleman included.

Touchdown Beau Sandland.

Sandland went on to make several plays in practices with the first and second strings, but the touchdown was special. The touchdown was the type of play where it all begins. The type of play that will stick in the back of Rivera’s and Gettleman’s heads throughout training camp.

The type of play that signifies Sandland is rising to the occasion.  It was a flash, as Ron Rivera would describe it.

However, Sandland knows he has work to do still.

“Continue to get comfortable with the formations shifts, the hot routes, the checks, the protections” Sandland recently said after practice. Sandland sounds like a true student of the game. “My attitude is as long as I am not making the same mistakes twice, I’m getting better every day. I’m just trying to learn” he added.

Big changes could be on the way for the Carolina Panthers tight ends, more sooner than later.

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Jeremy Igo is owner of Carolina Huddle. Based in Charlotte, he has covered the Carolina Panthers for over a decade.