The Carolina Panthers are doing a much better job of utilizing tight end Greg Olsen's receiving skills than the Bears did last season.
Olsen already has 12 receptions for 169 yards and a 14.1-yard average, putting him on pace for 64 catches and 901 yards. Last season in Mike Martz's offense, Olsen had 41 catches for 404 yards
"For the most part, it looks like their tight ends start out blocking first," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said of the Bears. "For us, our tight ends are used as receiving tight ends. We move them around, put them in motion, we try to create matchup problems for people, and we've had some success with it early on."
In 2009, before Martz arrived, Olsen had his best season, catching 60 passes for 612 yards. That's the kind of involvement Olsen has in the Panthers' attack under offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
"If you go back and look at what 'Chud' and I were part of in San Diego, and you saw how Antonio Gates was used, you go, 'Hey, these guys fit,' and that's the exciting thing for Greg," Rivera said. "This offense is more of a fit for him. The offense that coach Martz uses asks the tight ends to do a little bit of blocking before they get out, and I think they're very comfortable with the guys they've got."
Bears tight ends Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth have combined for 5 catches and 62 yards, but each has 1 TD catch, the same as Olsen.
Covering Olsen with a linebacker isn't usually advisable, but the Bears' Brian Urlacher has the athleticism to handle Olsen as well as almost anyone. But it's not easy, he says.
"Greg's tough," Urlacher said. "He used to give me fits in practice when he was here because he knew our defense, so he knew where to be and how to get open, so that's another challenge for us. He's got great hands and had a big touchdown for them last week. And he's blocking well.
"Everyone always says he can't block -- he's done a good job in the blocking game. They move him around a lot. We've got to be aware of that, just know where he's at at all times. It seems like (quarterback) Cam (Newton) is trying to find him as much as he can."
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