Has Carolina finally found it's No. 2 receiver?
The Carolina Panthers offense has been Jekyll-and-Hyde, but weapons for Cam Newton are emerging.
It is still early in the 2012-2013 NFL season to accurately predict who will have a good season. Two games do not provide a lot of information, but a few Panthers on offense are showing potential.
Despite the differences in offensive game plans, both games showed similarities in how Cam Newton was spreading the ball around. He showed preliminary signs of who his go-to targets will be. The good news is that, for once, Steve Smith is no longer the only target in the passing game.
If Newton's connection with these targets continues to grow, the Panthers will have an elite offense throughout the season.
Greg Olsen is already showing he is ready to be a top tight end
A significant part of Carolina's success on offense last season was due to the tight ends. Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen combined for almost 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns.
This season, it is a solo act for Olsen. He is the primary tight end and he has no equal on the team.
Olsen may not be an elite tight end, yet, but he has been a favorite target of Cam Newton. Against Tampa bay, Newton found Olsen six times for 56 yards. Olsen's game against New Orleans was not nearly as successful as he only had one catch for 13 yards.
The stats do not suggest Olsen to be a favorite target of Newton's, but his stats for the game against the Saints are misleading. Olsen only had one catch, but he was targeted four times. Olsen was getting open, but Cam could not give the tight end an accurate pass to catch.
The fact that Newton only threw the ball 20 times plays into the veteran tight end only getting one catch. The Panthers were more focused on running the ball, and then Cam would pass when the time was right.
Olsen should have more opportunities to record big games as the offense gets settled into the new season.
LaFell has not disappointed in his first two games as a starter
Carolina has been looking for a No. 2 receiver for a long time, and now they may have one.
Brandon LaFell has solidified his spot as the starting receiver opposite Steve Smith. LaFell has 155 yards in two games, and he continues to be a favorite of Newton's on third downs.
LaFell has also shown his ability to make big plays. He is averaging almost 18 yards per game, and he averaged over 20 yards per-catch against Tampa.
Coach Rivera thinks LaFell is becoming quite the playmaker.
“I’ll tell you that Brandon is really developing into a fine receiver,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “He is really a solid football player. He showed what he is capable of and those types of plays that he makes, the consistency by which he is making them is really helping us. He really did a nice job.”
It is clear Newton is looking more to LaFell. His continued progress could form a second "Double Trouble" to join the duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
The 33-year-old receiver is still one of the best in the business
LaFell and Olsen are coming along, but Steve Smith is still Newton's No. 1 target.
He is not "emerging" in the sense that he is not some youngster taking the next step. Smith is an emerging target because the soon-to-be 34-year-old receiver is taking the colossal chip on his shoulder and using it to dominate another NFL season.
Smith has already recorded two 100-yard games to start the season, and it looks like he is just beginning. He is currently No. 5 in receiving yards, but this is only a temporary spot.
Smith faces the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football. The secondary is banged-up and there is no one in New York that can handle Smith.
Another 100-yard game against the Giants will solidify Smith as a legitimate threat to claim the title of best receiver in 2012. Smith is ready to dominate this season, and the Giants game will be another sign that he and Newton are ready to do big things.