CHARLOTTE - Rookie Alex Armah has patiently been waiting for an opportunity. Now that Carolina will be without tight end Greg Olsen for two months after breaking his foot, that opportunity has arrived.
"I knew there was a chance," Armah said. "Around here we use the next man up mentality. I always prepare like that, and my time has come. I feel like I'm ready."
The product of West Georgia – a Division II program – impressed during training camp and the preseason. He showed promise at fullback with his receiving skills, movement and toughness, and even broke into the end zone during preseason against the Titans on a 20-yard catch and run out of the backfield.
Coaches liked Armah's versatility and potential, so much that they added him to the practice squad, hoping that in time he could fill a role that Carolina lost during the offseason.
"Alex showed very well in the preseason and did some really good things," head coach Ron Rivera said. "As we look at it, what we're really trying to do to a degree is replace a little bit of what we did with Mike Tolbert last year. The 21 personnel groupings (two running backs, one tight end), the 22 personnel groupings (two running backs, two tight ends), where he was the fullback."
In Weeks 1 and 2, Rivera used Ed Dickson to fill the fullback role when needed. Now, with Olsen's injury, Rivera plans to promote Dickson to tight end No. 1 duties while backup tight end Chris Manhertz is expected to fill the tight end No. 2 slot.
That opens the fullback positon for Armah, a player who's still raw in Rivera's eyes and someone who's still learning the offense. However, Olsen's absence forces Rivera's hand.
"It's Alex Armah's opportunity," Rivera said. "You have to have that next man up mentality. We've had it before and we've had to deal with it. We've had guys that have had to step in and play. That's the nature of the game."
However, despite the personnel change, the Panthers aren't planning to reinvent the offensive scheme without the three-time Pro Bowler.
"We're going to do what we do," Rivera said. "It's going to come down to decisions that are made. We'll call the play and it'll have options and reads off of it and it'll be up to the quarterback to make the decisions."
View photos from the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their game against the Saints.