The loss of Kelvin Benjamin for the Carolina Panthers is one that should not be taken lightly. He was expected to be a huge part of this offense and the team is certainly at a disadvantage with him not on the field.
While Benjamin was the team’s number one wide receiver, he may not be the team’s best target in the passing game. That honor should belong to tight end Greg Olsen, who is one of the most reliable pass catching tight ends in the game. Last year, Olsen set career highs in receptions (84), targets (122) and receiving yards (1,008) which were good enough for first or second on the Panthers.
He was a key in the team’s passing game a season ago and he is probably even more valuable this year. The Panthers offense is going to need Olsen to be the key figure in this passing game to help take pressure off the smaller, speedier wide receivers the team now has in Ted Ginn Jr. and Philly Brown.
If Olsen can continually get open in the 10-15 yard range in the middle of the field, it is going to force the Jacksonville Jaguars to focus more on stepping up to guard him. This should open up the sidelines for Ginn and Brown, who will win a foot race with pretty much any cornerback in the league.
Olsen’s performance on Sunday will be one of the deciding factors in how this Panthers offense performs against the Jaguars defense.
The Carolina Panthers are going to need a strong game from Mike Remmers, the question is where exactly that will come from. Starting center Ryan Kalil has been battling a knee injury that kept him out of the last two preseason games. He did return to practice on Wednesday, but in a limited capacity.
If Kalil is not able to go, it would make sense that Remmers would get the nod as starting center. He started the last preseason game at the position and has seen most of the practice time there. However, this is not his natural position and he has not played the position since seventh grade, according to Charlotte Observers’ Joseph Person.
It is never easy replacing a Pro Bowl player like Kalil, especially not playing the position in over a decade. However, he will have an equally daunting task if he plays right tackle trying to block defensive end Jared Odrick. The former Dolphins defensive tackle joined the Jaguars this offseason and will be lining up at defensive end for them.
Last season with the Dolphins, Odrick finished 16th among defensive tackles in the NFL in pass rush according to Pro Football Focus with a rating of 7.3.
Even though the Panthers made Cam Newton a $100 million man, this offense will lean heavily on running back Jonathan Stewart in 2015. Right now, the Panthers don’t have the weapons in the passing game, aside from Olsen, to scare opposing defenses. The best way to open up the passing game and make Newton’s job easier, will be to rely on the Panthers running game and Jonathan Stewart.
The ninth player finished the 2014 season as good as any running back in the league with 594 rushing yards over the final four regular season games and two playoff games. He averaged 99 rushing yards per game with three of those six games rushing for over 100 yards.
The offense is going to need a similar performance from the former Oregon Duck, especially early in the season, as the team tries to figure out who is the best fit at wide receiver to make the passing game respectable. If the team can get the running game going against the Jaguars, it should force the Jaguars’ secondary to play closer to the line of scrimmage. If this happens, this is where wide receivers Ginn and Brown will excel because they will be able to run by the defense for big pass plays.
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