Ron Rivera thinks Greg Olsen could put up Gronk/Graham-type numbers

AP

The emergence of tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham as major producers in the passing game has led to a lot of talk about who will be the next game-changer at the position.

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen doesn’t come up much in that conversation, but that may just be because no one is having it with Ron Rivera. The Panthers coach thinks that the departure of Jeremy Shockey will open up more targets for Olsen and that those extra targets could lead to numbers like the ones Gronkowski and Graham put up last season.

“It’s possible,” Rivera said, via the Associated Press. “We spread the ball around so much in this offense, but I really think it’s possible for a guy to have big games and put quite a few of them together and have some big numbers.”

Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski likes throwing to tight ends, as evidenced by the fact that Olsen and Shockey combined for 82 catches, 955 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Those numbers are actually more in the Aaron Hernandez/Jason Witten neighborhood, which isn’t quite Gronkowski/Graham territory but would make Olsen one of the most productive tight ends in the league if he were able to duplicate the numbers in 2012.

If Olsen makes good on Rivera’s bold predictions and the rest of the Panthers offense remains as productive as it was last year, the Panthers will have one of the most potent offenses in the league.