Shockey’s gone. We’re not as upset as you might think to lose him in Carolina. We have some delightful targets in the TE depth chart. Let’s take a gander:
Greg Olsen was Cam Newton’s favorite TE last year. Olsen finished 3rd in receptions on the team with 45 catches for 540 yards and 5 touchdowns. That was his first year in Carolina, and it’s no coincidence that 2011 was the most productive season by a set of tight ends in team history (along with ex-Panthers TE Jeremy Shockey). We should expect Greg Olsen to hook up with Newton often in the 2012 season.
Richie Brockel is the next player to watch on the TE depth chart, and I expect him to play often in 2012. He played in the FB position a lot in 2011, and was an integral part of the Chudrooskie (the famed play where Newton took the snap, placed the ball in Brockel’s hands between his legs, while Newton faked running to the right and Brockel took off the to the left for a TD). The trick play was his first career touchdown, so let’s hope it’s not his last of either.
Ben Hartsock is a blocking TE. We have a lot of great blockers on the Panthers (JStew, anyone?) and Hartsock is one of them.
Our other TEs include Gary Barnidge (who was on IR with a fibula/ankle injury) and Greg Smith (practice squad player from Texas) as our leftover returners.
Our rookie TE this year is Nelson Rosario, who was signed as an UFA from UCLA. In his time at UCLA, he played in 45 games with 23 starts, totaling 146 catches for 2,362 yards and 8 TDs. A versatile player, Rosario lined up at TE, WR, and HB.
We have some versatility and depth in Olsen, Barnidge and Hartsock. We may even have a secret weapon in Brockel. I have a feeling that Barnidge will step up and take care of business as the #2 TE this year. Only traning camp will tell where we will be for the regular season.