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Grill Bill: Missing Olsen

Posted Sep 20, 2017

Answering your questions about Greg Olsen's absence and Ron Rivera's milk preferences.

What are the coaches most worried about after losing Olsen 1. Catching 2. Blocking 3. Veteran presence on the field #GrillBill

7:15 AM - 19 Sep 2017

My initial thought was the first choice, but it’s No. 3.

Replacing Olsen’s production as a receiver will be tough, but they’ll replace some of it with an uptick in touches to guys like Ed Dickson and Devin Funchess. What isn't replaceable is Olsen’s calming on-field influence and his mastery of a system that requires him to play more spots than anyone on the roster.


Email from Justin: How far away is Bucky Hodges away from being a 53-man guy? He's an intriguing talent with good size and had success at Virginia Tech and makes for an interesting situation with Olsen sidelined for a bit. I hope you view this as a rational question and don't group it with a lot of the silly and naive questions I'm sure you deal with on a regular basis. Keep up the great work.

You’re inching toward the irrationality line, Justin, but it’s a fair question.

Many in this area are familiar with Hodges after he totaled nearly 2,000 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns at Virginia Tech. And I understand it’s easy to get excited about a 6-foot-6, 257-pounder with a skillset that’s similar to Olsen’s. But there’s a reason Hodges lasted until the 6th round before the Vikings cut him last week.

Hodges is another intriguing tight end project for the Panthers, but here’s a reminder of what Olsen said during 2016’s training camp about the position’s role here:

“In college, my job was to run around and catch the ball. You're not going to catch any balls around here as a young guy until (tight ends coach) Pete (Hoener) sees you hit that sled a thousand times. … You're constantly looking for young, developmental guys that you can grow into this position because it is a big part of our offense. You're looking for young guys you can mold. You're looking for guys that can develop down the road.”


Because. 


I know you're being tongue-in-cheek, especially because there are a number of candidates on defense, but Gano has had a quiet, perfect start to his season. Granted, all of his kicks have been within 40 yards, but he’s 6-for-6 on field goals and he’s booted all nine of his kickoffs out of the end zone for touchbacks.


“Talk about” is not a question, Ben.


The easy answer is you should wait to see how things go against Drew Brees and Tom Brady the next two weeks. But I passed this through one of the defensive-minded coaches here and his answer was: “19.” Think about it.   


Well, Monday was Bryan’s birthday. He turned 28, I believe. And because Mondays are long work days for folks who come to the stadium to cover the team, Max and I were in the building until well after the races began.

I have a tremendous amount of confidence I would’ve at least made the finals, though. If my hamstrings would’ve held up. Which is doubtful. 


Email from Vu: Why do the Panthers wait till the play clock is almost at 0 before snapping the ball?  I understand doing this when trying to run out the clock in the 4th Q, but it really seems like it happens throughout the game.

This won't completely answer your question, but let me explain why they haven’t brought out the no-huddle yet. To use that, they need to make sure Cam Newton is capable of getting into a rhythm. With the quarterback still working his way back after missing so much of the spring and summer, the no-huddle stuff hasn’t been in the game plan. But that'll be back – eventually.


When Steve Wilks was asked Monday about the Bills taking advantage of Worley’s cushion on their final drive, the defensive coordinator said:

“Everything is really based off the call. At times, as a coordinator, I can control and dictate that a little bit as far as getting him up there. If you really look at it at the end, once they hit him a couple of times we started pressing. Guys scout us, they see our tendencies, they break down certain guys as we do. So they’re going to see certain things and they’re going to try to attack us in that fashion, but we’ve got to tighten him up based off his technique, and most importantly, the call.” 


I had my first Nashville hot chicken experience last month. It was fine. It was spicy chicken. Overrated. So I’d go for the shrimp and grits.


It’s still a work in progress, which should have been expected with new plays, pieces and Newton missing so much time. Plus, “power running team” is a bit of a misnomer.

This is a rhythm-oriented offense. Whether they have a fullback in there or they’re in a spread formation, the biggest goal is to get into a rhythm. That happened a bit in San Francisco and for the first and last drives against the Bills. Now they have to find consistency – and the end zone. 


Email from Damon: Where does Curtis Samuel stand with this offense? We all want to see him in space with the ball in his hands.

The second-round pick saw his first NFL touches last week, but those two receptions totaled just seven yards. He’s the deep guy on kickoff returns, but he hasn’t had a chance on four kicks. He’s impressed on other special team units, but I get folks want to see the speedster do more.

We can’t forget how much time Samuel missed, though. A strained hamstring kept him out for almost the entire spring and summer. So as someone told me last week, “He’ll be more involved once he has more confidence in the offense and we have more confidence in his role on offense.”

Stay tuned.

“We’re itching to continue to get him more involved,” offensive coordinator Mike Shula said Monday. “He’s had a couple weeks now of consistent practice time and he’s close. We obviously want to get him the ball.” 


ICYMI: Kawann Short and I debuted a podcast titled "Everything But Football" last week. 

We wanted to do something timely this week, so with tight end/fullback Chris Manhertz about to take on a bigger role, we grabbed him for an episode that will drop Thursday morning. With a cameo from Trai Turner


Good question.

They still plan to get the 2015 first-round pick more reps, but it's not like the defense has been on the field much. Through two weeks, the Panthers lead the league in time of possession. They also haven’t trailed this season. So with the 49ers and Bills playing from behind, the Panthers played a lot of nickel, limiting opportunities to get Thompson on the field. 


No captain changes are coming. And if Olsen wants to keep doing things like the opening coin toss, they’ll keep sending him out there. 


Because I am nothing but a proper journalist, I took this question to Ron. Like me, he thought it was sort of silly because who puts milk in the bowl first?!

BONUS: He used to use whole milk. Then he switched to 2%. Then to soy. Now it's almond milk.