It appears that the Carolina Panthers will be without tight end Greg Olsen for their game against the Tennessee Titans. The Pro Bowl tight end has been dealing with back spasms and while the MRI came back clean, the coaching staff will be cautious with their star player.
This creates additional opportunities for the other tight ends on the roster, including Scott Simonson, who played nine games last year with the team and only had one reception for 10 yards.
Simonson has had a strong training camp this year and once considered to be firmly on the roster bubble with Ed Dickson and seventh-round draft pick Beau Sandland on the roster. However, he has worked his way up the depth chart and a good game against the Titans will help his case to make the roster in 2016.
The race for the final wide receiver spot is going to be tight and it should come down to the three players listed above. In the first preseason game, Bersin had the best performance and was the leading wide receiver for the Panthers with five receptions for 69 yards. However, he missed a portion of the game after suffering a rib injury.
Bersin was able to return to practice but it remains to be seen how many, if any, snaps he gets against the Titans.
If he isn't able to play, this creates a great opportunity for the two other wide receivers as they try to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. Norwood failed to register any stats in the first preseason game and will need a strong showing against the Titans to help his case. The Panthers traded with the Seattle Seahawks last offseason for him and he hasn't returned much in his year or so with the organization.
Byrd has had a strong training camp and had a solid game during the first preseason game with a big 35-yard catch but made most of his impact in the return game. If the second-year wide receiver wants to make the team, he will need to show more on the offensive side of the ball.
This could be a game where Shaq Thompson has a significant number of snaps as the Panthers may be forced to play in their 4-3 defense more to counter the Titan's run game. They not only have last year's Heisman winner, Derrick Henry, but also traded for DeMarco Murray in the offseason. The former Eagle and Cowboy is only one year removed from a 1,845 yard rushing season with 13 touchdowns and is still an excellent back.
This presents a great opportunity for Thompson to supplement his impressive training camp with a strong game against the Titans. The majority of the news from training camp about Thompson was about his play against the pass. This week will give him an opportunity to showcase not only his pass defense but his ability to get in the backfield and stop the run.