Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 8/20/12
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Greg Olsen is hoping he can be as productive as Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera believes Olsen could be poised for a breakout season not having to share catches with Jeremy Shockey, now a free agent, and with the arrival of new fullback Mike Tolbert, who should lighten Olsen's load as a blocker. In fact, Rivera believes "it's possible" Olsen could put up numbers similar to what Gronkowski and Graham did last season. And that's saying something. Gronkowski turned in a great season a year ago catching 90 passes for 1,327 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns for the AFC champion New England Patriots. Graham had 99 catches for 1,310 yards receiving and 11 scores for the division rival New Orleans Saints. You'd have to scan a bit further down the list of league leaders -- OK, way down -- to find Olsen's name. He finished his first season in Carolina (No. 20 in the AP Pro 32) with 45 catches for 540 yards receiving and five touchdowns. However, when you begin to factor in Shockey's numbers -- 37 receptions for 455 yards receiving and four touchdowns -- it begins to put the Panthers in the same ballpark with the Patriots and Saints when it comes to overall tight end production. With Shockey not likely to return, Rivera expects more balls will be thrown Olsen's way. "This will be his first real opportunity with us to step up and be the starting tight end and be the guy," Rivera said. "You watch him catch footballs and you watch him run routes and you see those traits that say you can fit right into that group. We're excited about it." Good enough to challenge Gronkowski and Graham? "It's possible," Rivera said. "We spread the ball around so much in this offense, but I really think it's possible for a guy to have big games and put quite a few of them together and have some big numbers." Rivera said Olsen has a tremendous rapport with quarterback Cam Newton and works extremely hard. "I think he's a tremendous target," Rivera said. "I think the chance of him stepping up and being right in the elite group of players at his position I think that's possible. I really do." Olsen also has something else working to his advantage -- offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, a former tight ends coach who loves utilizing that position in the passing game. Just look at what he did for Antonio Gates in San Diego and Kellen Winslow Jr. in Cleveland. As you might expect all of this talk of more passes thrown his way is music to Olsen's ears. He is, after all, a receiver by nature. Catching the football is what he does best. And he feels if given the chance he can finish among the league leaders in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. "In terms of physically running, catching and doing all of things, I don't think there's a lot of guys in the league who do those things better than I do," Olsen said. "Sometimes it's just a matter of different circumstances dictate different results." At the same time Olsen isn't a selfish player. He doesn't measure his success by personal statistics. "I've had some seasons where I caught a lot of balls and I looked back and realized I didn't play all that well overall, and I've had others where I caught 40 balls and felt like I played well around," Olsen said. "I've never been one to try to let stats dictate what I bring to the team. But obviously production is what you're judged on." Olsen's most productive season came in 2009 when he had 612 yards receiving on 60 receptions and eight touchdowns for the Chicago Bears. While it looked as if he was on the verge of becoming a breakout player in the league, the arrival of offensive coordinator Mike Martz in 2010 changed how the Bears utilized the tight end position. Olsen spent the majority of his final two seasons with the Bears used more in blocking situations. The Bears traded him away for a third-round draft pick last summer. Carolina's plan is to play to Olsen's strengths. Olsen said based on the plays the team is running in practice and in preseason games he'll have an opportunity to put up quality numbers. "I think so and that's always been my strength is catching the ball," Olsen said. NOTES: Rivera is optimistic outside linebacker Thomas Davis, who has missed the past two preseason games with a calf strain, will play Sunday night against the New York Jets after having his workload increased the past two days. However, Rivera doesn't seem as optimistic about middle linebacker Jon Beason's (hamstring) availability. ... Wide receiver David Gettis continues to work on rehabbing his knee while working with trainers on the side. In the meantime, Rivera expects that his No. 3 receiver spot will likely come down to a "by committee" approach.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Bears likely to cut Cutler, focus on trading for Garoppolo

Jeanie Buss apologizes to Lakers fans for not firing brother sooner

Manfred blames MLBPA for no significant rule changes in 2017

Report: Zach Britton has potential oblique injury

The Rock returns to WWE, leaves CM Punk a voicemail after 'Raw'

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

After outfield collision, Ichiro pranks teammate and claims he’s been cut

Simeon Rice gets vulgar with radio host over HOF debate

Ronda Rousey to be guest star on NBC’s ‘Blindspot’

Lakers replace Jim Buss with Magic Johnson, fire Kupchak

Report: James Harrison, Steelers share mutual interest in 2017 return

Jimmy Garoppolo’s mom keeping him up to speed on his trade rumors

Nintendo is finally, thankfully embracing sports and eSports

The 'Did the Kings just make the Pelicans into a super team?' quiz

Will the Timberwolves start showcasing their potential?

'Playmakers' in Ice Cube's league who can help the Cavs

Box Score 2/21: It's trade heartbreak season

The guard tandems you'd want in a 2-on-2 tournament

We got our hands on the new Nintendo Switch, here are our first impressions

Top 10 second basemen in baseball for 2017

Teams and players who could be dealing at the NBA trade deadline

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

Movies you can stream now to get your football fix

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Nintendo is finally, thankfully embracing sports and eSports

The 'Did the Kings just make the Pelicans into a super team?' quiz

Will the Timberwolves start showcasing their potential?

'Playmakers' in Ice Cube's league who can help the Cavs

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher to win 100 games with two different teams

The guard tandems you'd want in a 2-on-2 tournament

We got our hands on the new Nintendo Switch, here are our first impressions

Top 10 second basemen in baseball for 2017

Teams, players who could be dealing at the NBA trade deadline

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker