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TE Greg Olsen - Carolina Panthers

6-5, 255Born: 3-11-1985College: MiamiDrafted: Round 1, pick 31

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Week 21: at Denver Broncos

All TE vs DEN

Mark and Joe say: Neutral matchup. Cam Newton didn't have to throw the ball much against the Seahawks, as Jonathan Stewart and the defense staked him to a 21-0 lead by early in the second quarter that Sunday. Newton did eventually hit Greg Olsen (six targets for 6/77/1 during the entire game) for a 19-yard TD, and the Panthers went into halftime with 31 points - the same total that they won the game with at the end (31-24). All told, Newton threw 16/22 for 161 yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions two contests ago. Then, Newton accounted for four TDs against the Cardinals during the Panthers 49-15 Conference Championship victory, throwing 19/28 for 335 yards passing, two TDs and one interception thrown, with 10/47/2 rushing to his credit. Corey Brown (seven targets for 4/113/1 receiving) and Olsen (eight for 6/113/0) both went over 100 yards receiving during the game, with big assists thrown in by Devin Funchess (three for 2/21/1) and Ted Ginn Jr. (two for 2/52/0). The Panthers' passing attack is on a roll entering this Super Bowl, and they finished their victory against the Cardinals emphatically, which the team had stated was their goal after allowing Seattle to get back in the contest during the Divisional Round of the playoffs. As an aside - Newton has a 105.6 passer rating and has posted a 39:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the red zone since 2014. He's thrown 26 red zone touchdowns this season without a single interception, according to NFL.com. As of Tuesday, February 2, the Broncos expected free safety Darian Stewart (MCL sprain) and strong safety T.J. Ward (nagging ankle injury) to be ready for Super Bowl 50. They were both expected to practice on Wednesday, February 3. However, Ward has tweaked his ankle injury multiple times and has been sidelined at times after the aggravations, so it is dicey that he is able to finish this game even if he starts it. On January 30, after missing the bye week of practices, Ward stated: 'Anytime you get an opportunity to play in this game, and you can run a little bit, I'm guaranteeing you're going to be out there.' Ward said. Stewart affirmed Ward's sentiment. 'Without a doubt in my mind, I'm playing.' Right cornerback Chris Harris (shoulder injury) is considered probable to play, so the Broncos will at least begin the contest with their starting secondary. If Denver is going to stand up to Carolina, they'll need Ward and Stewart to play through pain and stay on the field Sunday. The Broncos come into this game with the NFL's top-ranked pass defense during regular season, averaging just 199.6 net passing yards allowed per game, with 52 sacks generated (first in the NFL), while allowing 19 passing scores vs. 14 interceptions (tied for 13th in the NFL). However, they have given up a surprising average of 301.5 net passing yards per game during the postseason, worst among teams in the playoffs, with one passing score and two interceptions surrendered so far - they've recorded seven sacks, third-most among the 12 playoff teams. Pittsburgh racked up yards in the Divisional Round (24/37 for 311 net yards passing), but didn't manage to throw for a single TD (zero TDs or interceptions thrown at Denver). Tom Brady attempted a whopping 56 passes at Denver two weeks ago (27/56 for 292 net yards passing, one TD and two interceptions thrown with four sacks taken for -18 yards) but watched his team lose 18-20 due to a missed two-point conversion. The Denver pass D isn't at the top of their collective game entering Super Bowl 50. Newton is hot, while the Broncos' pass defense hasn't been impressive of late, but dominated during regular season - this looks like a neutral matchup to us.

Recent Stats and Projections

WEEKOPPoSNAPRECYDTDFumLPts
17 vs TB 62 2 16 0 0 1.6
19 vs SEA 0 6 77 1 0 13.7
20 vs ARI 0 6 113 0 0 11.3
21 at DEN 0 4 41 0 0 4.1
21 at DEN PROJ-Dodds * 5 * * * *
21 at DEN PROJ-Tremblay * 5 * * * *
21 at DEN PROJ-Bloom * 7 * * * *

Recent Game Summaries

2015 Week 20 vs ARI (8 / 6 / 113 / 0 rec)

In the click-bait headline media culture we currently reside in, much of the talk about Olsen leading up to Sunday's game was actually about how little people were talking about Olsen. That never really seemed to ring true, but if people were failing to talk about Olsen before Sunday, that should not be an issue anymore. Olsen, who is in the discussion with Gronkowski as the best Tight Ends in the NFL, was simply sensational on Sunday. His 113 yards were tied with Corey Brown, while also leading the team in both targets and receptions. Olsen is a mismatch against nearly any defender, with tremendous size, speed, hands, and route running, he poses a nightmare matchup for any safety, linebacker or even corner in the league. His rapport with Newton is apparent on nearly every drive. Take note NFL reporters, you have two weeks leading up to Super Bowl 50 to talk about how great Greg Olsen truly is.

2015 Week 19 vs SEA (6 / 6 / 77 / 1 rec)

Greg Olsen provided his usual steadying influence in the passing attack for Cam Newton, who found his tight end early between the numbers for a drive-starting nine-yard completion. The Seahawks stayed true to their defensive principles for the majority of the game, allowing Olsen to sneak in underneath their zones and catch shorter passes. After a deep over route from Ted Ginn Jr. ran off Richard Sherman into the deep third, Olsen found himself wide open on the right sideline. Newton fired a pass into him and the tight end gained 27 yards up the sideline unimpeded. Olsen produced one of the finest catches of his career for his lone touchdown of the game. Lined up in a short split off the left side of the core of the formation, Olsen burst between two Seattle defenders towards the goal line. One defender was playing underneath, the other over the top, but it didn't matter. The pass from Newton was high and away from both defenders, and Olsen snared it with both hands, maintaining control as he crashed to the ground. Olsen sustained a stinger to his right shoulder on a short catch-and-run in the third quarter, but returned to the game looking none the worse for wear.

2015 Week 17 vs TB (2 / 2 / 16 / 0 rec)

While Greg Olsen was lined up in his traditional spots all over the formation, he was not the focus of the passing attack against Tampa Bay. Instead, Newton targeted his outside receivers and relied on a steady dose of the ground game. After the Buccaneers had early success blitzing Newton, Olsen was often asked to stay in to block as an H-back, limiting his pass routes run. He had an excellent play to stop at the sideline and give his quarterback an easy read on a scramble drill. Later, he was stopped a yard shy of the end zone on a questionable pass zipped between defenders from Newton. Olsen burned a Tampa Bay defender on a seam pattern in the second half and drew a defensive pass interference penalty that kept the offense on schedule.

2015 Week 16 vs ATL (6 / 4 / 40 / 0 rec)

Greg Olsen seemed to be affected by the malaise that hovered over the entire Panthers offense, unable to exert his usual influence on proceedings. Olsen and his quarterback connected early on some quick, timing throws between the hashes. Even when Olsen made the catch, however, he was quickly corralled by a disciplined Atlanta defense. Olsen - as well as the rest of the receiving corps had trouble finding open spots downfield and had to settle for short completions. As the pressure ramped up on Cam Newton late in the game, his two targets in Olsen's direction were incomplete, with pass rush the primary culprit.

2015 Week 15 vs NYG (8 / 6 / 79 / 1 rec)

Despite the many defensive conundrums the Giants faced against a versatile Carolina offense, one they did not shy away from was limiting Greg Olsen's involvement. The New Jersey native was kept under wraps with high-low coverage at times from the Giants, who were able to break up a couple of targets intended for Olsen, including a sideline pass that looked to have been caught on first glance. Olsen found more joy in the two-minute drill, when he and Cam Newton connected on a pair of quick passes between the numbers. Olsen capped his performance with a touchdown on a well-designed play. Borrowing from the naked bootleg concept the offense has used to convert short yardage plays in previous weeks, Olsen faked a block inside before leaking out for a corner route. Newton had booted to the same side and lofted a perfect pass into his tight end's stride, who had only to finish the play and find the end zone.

2015 Week 14 vs ATL (4 / 3 / 52 / 0 rec)

Greg Olsen connected well with Cam Newton in the early stages against an overmatched Atlanta defense, with Olsen using his veteran savvy to find soft spots against the Falcons' zone and man defenses. Newton found Olsen with a dart over the middle for his first catch, which he rebounded with authority. Olsen was able to haul in a perfectly floated Newton pass on a flag pattern and establish himself as a runner before being brought down by contact; initially the play had been ruled a catch and fumble, but it was overturned. A scary moment for Olsen followed when, after the offense was set up near the goal line, Newton targeted him on a post pattern. Olsen's knee buckled at an awkward angle and his reaction seemed to indicate a serious injury. However, the tight end was seen warming up and looking spry at the beginning of the second half and was reportedly fine to return if needed. With the game in hand as it was, however, the coaching staff opted not to risk Olsen further.

2015 Week 13 vs NO (12 / 9 / 129 / 0 rec)

Choosing to eschew the strategy employed by many defenses, the Saints opted not to closely mark the Panthers' most dangerous weapon in the passing attack. Olsen was given free releases time and again, allowing him to find the soft spots in the coverage and present a big target for Cam Newton. Olsen got into a rhythm early with a couple of quick connections with his quarterback on simple, timing throws. After getting open on the sideline, however, Newton left the ball too high for Olsen to both secure the catch and get his feet in bounds. An uncharacteristic fumble from Olsen on a routine sideline grab - a ball expertly popped out by a lurking Saints defender - resulted in a turnover. Undeterred, Olsen soldiered on and became a huge factor in the latter stages. First, he reeled in a beautiful lofted pass from Newton on a corner route, tapping both feet in what many considered a questionable play. Upon replay review it was determined the catch was a good one. Olsen ripped the seam in the fourth quarter and hauled in a 32-yard bullet from Newton, boxing out the linebacker in Tampa-2 pipe' coverage. Olsen produced a magnificent grab on fourth down to keep the game alive for the Panthers on their final drive, reaching low and cradling the football before it hit the artificial turf.

2015 Week 12 vs DAL (9 / 5 / 70 / 0 rec)

In a game mostly controlled by the Panthers, Greg Olsen made his presence felt in key situations and put in a stellar shift as a run blocker on the perimeter. Facing the Dallas blitz, he and Cam Newton were able to connect on timing throws for short completions in the early stages. An outstanding play in the first half saw Olsen break free of his defender at the line of scrimmage with a subtle outside-in jab step, before ripping the seam. Newton found him with a precise pass, low and away from oncoming defenders so that Olsen could protect himself as he made the catch, which he did with a sure-handed snag. A subsequent end zone target was broken up after it appeared Olsen had initially secured the football. As the game wore on, Olsen's main contribution came as a run blocker, but he produced a near carbon copy of his seam route catch in the fourth quarter, bursting upfield and looking in a bullet pass from his quarterback.

2015 Week 11 vs WAS (6 / 3 / 54 / 1 rec)

In the early stages, the Redskins made a concerted effort to remove Greg Olsen from the game plan. Olsen was constantly shadowed at the line of scrimmage and underneath zone defenders would shade to his side to force Cam Newton to go elsewhere. Olsen broke free on an intermediate crossing pattern, latching on to a beautiful touch pass from Newton over a linebacker in underneath coverage. Olsen was fortunate not to be the primary culprit for a pick six. Newton fired an ill-advised smoke pass out to his tight end, only for Olsen to be immediately and violently contacted by a Redskins defender. The hit on Olsen, who was ducking his head at the time of contact, was deemed to be high and dangerous, taking the subsequent fortuitous catch by the defensive back and touchdown off the board. Newton failed to connect with Olsen on a pair of high targets, leading him into a couple of bad hits. The two did connect on a well-timed post pattern for a touchdown in the red zone. Olsen ran a beautiful route set up as the middle receiver in the trips side of a three-by-one formation, stabbing outside before coming back inside and securing a bullet pass from his quarterback.

2015 Week 10 vs TEN (8 / 8 / 80 / 0 rec)

Greg Olsen riffed early with Cam Newton as the Panthers got into a nice rhythm. The Titans defense continued to allow Olsen free releases off the line, providing easy pitch and catch opportunities in the intermediate range, where the savvy veteran was able to gain separation with subtle moves. Second-half adjustments by the Titans - primarily based on exotic blitzes - bogged down the offense and took Olsen out of the equation. However, he made one of the most acrobatic and difficult catches of his career in the third quarter. Reaching back behind him for a back shoulder pass from Newton, Olsen managed to snag the football with one outstretched hand while falling down, finishing the impressive feat by cradling the ball to his body. Olsen was a fixture of the passing attack and should have been rewarded with a touchdown on a pick play in the red zone. Olsen crossed the formation from right to left and, with defenders lost in traffic, he caught a lofted pass from Newton only to be tackled just inches short.

2015 Week 9 vs GB (7 / 4 / 66 / 1 rec)

Greg Olsen excelled as a blocker at times against Green Bay, putting in his usual physical shift to seal the edge off for some key rushing yards. However, it was his effort in the passing attack that jumped off the screen. An effortless one-handed catch in the right flat on a sidearm pass from Cam Newton kick-started the veteran tight end's day, as he turned it upfield for a 23-yard gain. The Packers defense struggled to deal with Olsen's movement early, as the Panthers lined him up all over the formation to probe mismatches. However, later in the game they adjusted and began to bracket him more often to take away quick, easy throws in his direction. Newton missed Olsen on a seam route for what should have been a touchdown; Olsen broke free from his trailing defender and had nothing but green grass to run into, but his quarterback let him down. The pair did connect on a short touchdown pass, however, taking advantage of a Packers defense that looked all at sea. Set up inside the Green Bay five-yard line, Olsen released off the line quickly without any contact and got inside, giving Newton an easy pitch-and-catch throw for the score. Later, Olsen exploited rookie cornerback Damarious Randall on a deep route; the cornerback had expected a short route and seemed to settle his feet for a split-second, allowing the tight end to blaze past him. Randall had no choice at the catch point other than to commit a pass interference penalty, erasing what would have been a potential 40-yard gain for Olsen. Despite the Packers putting an emphasis on taking away Olsen from Newton's progressions, he still managed to get open with subtlety in his routes, excellent chemistry and timing with his quarterback and a well-developed veteran savvy.

2015 Week 8 vs IND (12 / 6 / 79 / 1 rec)

Despite the sloppy conditions, Greg Olsen managed to make his presence felt and contribute to another Panthers victory. Olsen was stymied on his first targets of the game, as excellent underneath coverage denied him. A subsequent end zone target from Cam Newton sailed a little high for Olsen to reel in. After committing a penalty for offensive pass interference on a pick play across the middle that freed up Ted Ginn Jr. for a big gain, Olsen redeemed himself with a 27-yard touchdown catch. Newton and Olsen went back to the play that had failed earlier, the seam pattern. This time, a well-executed play fake to crossing running backs in the backfield held the Colts linebackers and allowed Olsen to get a step on his defender. A nicely lofted pass by Newton was hauled in by a falling Olsen. As the game carried on into overtime, Newton went back to Olsen, who made an impressive one-handed catch with a defender draped all over him.

2015 Week 7 vs PHI (5 / 3 / 65 / 0 rec)

With the Panthers' rushing attack finding success in a patient offensive game plan, Greg Olsen was not as much of a factor as usual. The Eagles linebackers and safeties patrolled the middle of the field and often stayed tight to Olsen's hip in pass coverage, a strength of Philadelphia's secondary. Olsen managed to break free on a corner route early, using the defensive back's leverage against him to cut outside quickly and haul in a floated Cam Newton pass. Olsen found some room in the short range of the field with a pair of dump-off passes from his quarterback, one of which the tight end turned into a nice catch and run, finishing with a shoulder charge on a hapless Nolan Carroll. The Panthers did not get into many obvious red zone passing situations, and when they did the Eagles made certain to blanket Olsen.

2015 Week 6 vs SEA (11 / 7 / 131 / 1 rec)

It wasn't until late in the game that Cam Newton and Greg Olsen began to riff as they have been in recent games. However, the intent to get Olsen the football was there in spades. Olsen made a splash early with a diving catch on the left sideline, adjusting to a fast ball from Newton mid-air to snag it. Olsen could have made a play on a fourth and short pass from Newton, but the ball was lofted too much, allowing Earl Thomas to break it up. Olsen got into gear with a 22-yard catch and run on a shallow cross, Newton showing good patience to wait for the passing window to open up. Olsen came back a couple of plays later, beating a trailing Seahawks defender down the right sideline and hauling in a well-placed ball for another big gain. In the fourth quarter, with the game on the line, Olsen did his best work. He boxed out a defensive back on a quick in-cut from the left, securing the catch and falling down smartly to avoid contact. Newton found Olsen again on a seam pattern that allowed his tight end to run after the catch, only to be stopped at the 1-yard line. Olsen scored the go-ahead touchdown with 30 seconds to play as he ripped down the seam past Seahawks, who left him uncovered after a reported communication breakdown. In the end, it was a simple throw and catch with no Seattle defender in the vicinity.

2015 Week 4 vs TB (6 / 2 / 28 / 0 rec)

Despite the modest passing totals posted by Cam Newton, a pair of "almost" catches by the ever-reliable Olsen could have changed that dramatically. Olsen showed excellent route-running skill and soft hands early on a seam pass and could have scored with one more block on an inside screen pass in the red zone. Olsen continued to get open, and Newton was just inches away on a pass to the corner for his tight end a few plays later. Olsen almost hauled in an improbable pass with the sun in his eyes just inches short of the goal line, but the ball managed to trickle away at the last moment. Newton and Olsen failed to connect on a fade route for what should have been a touchdown, the quarterback throwing the pass far too high for Olsen to even attempt to make a play.

2015 Week 3 vs NO (11 / 8 / 134 / 2 rec)

After failing to connect on an early sideline throw, Cam Newton and Greg Olsen took the game by the scruff of the neck and never put a foot wrong against a porous Saints defense. Olsen showed terrific hands and speed down the seam as he hauled in a 27-yard pass with a one-handed catch, beating man coverage easily. A red zone touchdown reception on a shallow crossing route was taken off the board due to pass interference, but the determined Olsen was not to be denied. Only two plays later, Newton found Olsen with a well-timed pass at the goal line. The two showed good understanding and timing on the play. Continuing to exploit the weaknesses of the New Orleans defense, Olsen blew past Brandon Browner, who had deep third responsibility, and produced a fine run after the catch after Newton found him with a perfect pass. Olsen added a second touchdown catch and set a career-high for yardage in a single game in the process on a similar play to his first. Posting up at the goal line between defenders, Newton knew exactly when and where to fire the pass in. Olsen could have had a third touchdown on a red zone target at the end of the first half, but the pass was squeezed into a tight window in the flat, and the trailing safety had good coverage to break it up.

2015 Week 2 vs HOU (14 / 6 / 70 / 0 rec)

After a quiet first week in Jacksonville, Cam Newton made it a point to get the football into Greg Olsen's hands. Houston countered with aggressive man coverage and single-high safety looks, taking away the seam throws. Undeterred, Olsen managed to find open spaces along the sidelines and hooked up with Newton on several timing throws that showed the kind of chemistry these two players have. Olsen later bailed out his quarterback on third down, leaping high to reel in an errant pass with a defender in his zip code. Olsen got open for his biggest gain of the game off play action after faking a block before releasing into a shallow cross pattern. Newton found him on the backside after having rolled right, and Olsen had nothing but open field to run into for a 27-yard completion.

2015 Week 1 vs JAX (3 / 1 / 11 / 0 rec)

With a dearth of quality options at the wide receiver position, it came as no surprise that Greg Olsen was as so often happened last season asked to block in '12' personnel sets, or two tight end formations. He did this capably and provided extra time for his quarterback to pick his targets, but it affected his production against a stout Jacksonville front seven. When flexed out as a receiver in more obvious passing situations, Olsen showed his value, converting on a red zone target with a precision out pattern on 3rd and 10. A few plays later Olsen had the football in his hands in the end zone after Cam Newton lofted a beautiful pass over the trailing defender's clutches. Unfortunately for Olsen, he was called for offensive pass interference after the officials spotted a small push off with the right arm. Newton and Olsen were unable to riff as usual, but connected on a couple of nice timing throws in the short range late on as the Panthers salted away the game.

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