Greg Olsen returns at perfect time for Panthers playoff push

Carolina Panthers

Greg Olsen is coming back to the Panthers lineup, and that’s big for their postseason push.

The Panthers have been down their best tight end since Week 2, but Greg Olsen will be back in the lineup when the Panthers take on the Jets on Sunday. Greg Olsen broke his foot against the Buffalo Bills back in September, and although the Panthers are 7-3 currently Olsen has been missed from the lineup.

Backup tight end Ed Dickson has been good enough in Olsen’s absence, but that being said it’s just not the same. Dickson’s best game was in Detroit where he caught all five of his targets for 125 yards. That’s a regular game for Olsen, who prior to this season had recorded three straight 1,000-yard seasons.

If you watch the Panthers play then you know that Cam Newton absolutely loves to target Olsen. Between the 2015 and 2016 seasons, there were only four tight ends who had more than 100 targets in both seasons. They were Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Delanie Walker and Greg Olsen. Prior to this season, Olsen had also caught over 60 percent of his targets dating back to the 2012 season, which was his second in Carolina.

The Panthers offense is about as vanilla as it gets. They’re a ground and pound team that takes a lot of shots down the field. It works because Cam Newton is basically a tank playing quarterback. Olsen is coming off a year where he averaged 13.4 yards per reception, with most of his work done in the slot where he lined up for 43 percent of his snaps in 2016. Newton is still going to run the ball there’s no doubt about that, but Olsen is the vertical threat they’ve been missing for the past 10 weeks.

While Olsen compliments Newton perfectly he’s going to make life so much easier for Christian McCaffrey and Jonathan Stewart. The latter is having probably his worst season of his career rig, averaging 3.3 yards per carry and only has 460 rushing yards. McCaffrey isn’t going to start taking snaps running between the tackles, but Olsen is going to make things easier for the both of them.

One way to get the running game going is to stretch the defense. With Olsen back in the lineup as a legitimate vertical threat then it could open up some running lanes for Stewart. As for McCaffrey, he’s probably the second happiest guy on the offense. McCaffrey needs space to operate, and just Olsen lining up on the field creates, even more, space for him.

Olsen returning to the lineup is vital for the Panthers playoff push. They currently own a Wild Card spot, but they still have an opportunity to catch the division-leading Saints. They have one more matchup with the Saints on Dec. 3. With Olsen in the lineup, the Panthers offense because extremely dangerous, and that should scare teams because they’ve proven to be dangerous even without Olsen.

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