Carolina Panthers Roster Battle: A Big Opportunity for Tight Ends

The Carolina Panthers were dead set on upgrading the depth of their tight end position this season. They would have drafted Hunter Henry in the first round if Vernon Butler was not available, but instead waited until the seventh round to draft Beau Sandland. They also signed a good number of young free agents over the past year, including Scott Simonson, Marcus Lucas, and Braxton Deaver.

Clearly, the Carolina Panthers have three young capable tight ends that only need a chance.

Well, as it so happens, they will all get their chance this Saturday in Tennsessee. The Panthers will be without their two starting tight ends Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson. Olsen is dealing with back spasms that has held him out of three straight practices. After yesterday’s practice, Ron Rivera was amendment that it was not a serious concern.

“It is nothing concerned about” Rivera said. “As far as Greg is concerned he is just going to go out and work with the trainers.” Olsen was not on the practice field yesterday with the other injured players. So don’t expect him this weekend in Tennessee, and I highly doubt you should expect him next week against the New England Patriots as well. There is no point in rushing Olsen back onto the playing field and risking further complications during a preseason game. Hopefully, Olsen will be good to go for the season opener in Denver.

Ed Dickson has missed significant practice time due to a groin injury. Although he was having a solid training camp up until the injury, his roster spot is not a given. Any tight end on the team not named Greg Olsen is expendable.

This means the four young tight ends, Simonson, Lucas, Sandland, and Deaver, will all likely see significant playing time in Tennessee and possibly at home against New England next weekend. This is a perfect storm for a surprise roster move at tight end.

carolina panthers scott simonson

Scott Simonson

Keep an eye on Scott Simonson, in particular. So far he has been the favorite to claim the third tight end position on the roster. However, if he performs well in the next two preseason games, he could force the Panthers to at least consider keeping him over Dickson. The Panthers would then likely also keep a young prospect to develop (Lucas, Sandland, or Deaver).

Simonson needs to not only to prove his worth as a receiving threat, but also (and maybe even more importantly) perform well in run blocking. Highlight reels of amazing catches are fine, but for any of these young players to have a chance they must be able to block as well. No blocking? No jersey. It is that simple.

Is a roster shakeup up at tight end a sure thing? No, far from it. But because of injuries the possibility is very real.



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