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Can Ian Thomas Fill Greg Olsen's Shoes?

The Panthers have a big hole to fill at tight end, is Ian Thomas the guy?

Greg Olsen is one of several seasoned veterans that the Carolina Panthers let walk this offseason as a part of their rebuild. 

He was beloved by the fan base and provided the Panthers offense with one of the best over the middle targets in the NFL. During his nine years in Carolina, he became one of the league's premier receiving tight ends and was a huge piece of the puzzle to getting the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2016.

Now, Olsen will be trying to do the same thing for Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks as he comes to the tail end of his career.

So, how do you replace a guy like Olsen? Well, it's very challenging. The Panthers have four tight ends on the roster and none of them possess the skillset that Greg Olsen had. Seth DeValve was signed in free agency, but will more than likely be used primarily as a blocking tight end. Chris Manhertz has been in the league since 2014 and has only hauled in six receptions for 90 yards - pretty safe to say, he's not the guy. Temmarick Hemingway has moved on and off the practice squad throughout his career and has been waived a few times along the way.

Yet, if there is one guy on the roster that could fill in Olsen's role, it is the third-year man out of Indiana, Ian Thomas.

Through his first two seasons in the league, his numbers wouldn't indicate that he is capable of being a legitimate weapon in the passing game, but much of that was because of Olsen getting all of the attention. Now that Olsen is no longer in Carolina, Thomas has a chance to shine.

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The question is: Will Thomas ever be half of what Olsen was? It's hard to say, but my gut is telling me no. He's a really solid option for Joe Brady to use in the offense, but posting big-time numbers just doesn't seem like it's in his DNA. 

Thomas doesn't have great speed but neither did Greg Olsen. However, route running and great hands are what made Olsen so valuable. These are two areas of Thomas' game that have yet to be developed. With how successful Matt Rhule is at developing players, it wouldn't be surprising to see Thomas progress, but I wouldn't set that as the expectation for him. With an increased role, progression will be inevitable but just how high Thomas can elevate his game remains an unanswered question. 

Do you think Ian Thomas can put up similar production that Greg Olsen did? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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