The Panthers lost tight end Greg Olsen to a foot injury in the opener. He will be replaced by Ian Thomas, a rookie tight end who played at Indiana, when the Panthers (1-0) face the Falcons (0-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“I don’t think a lot of people know a lot about him, which I think is fine with us,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “Very athletic. Good hands. Good route-runner. Good blocker. He has a lot to learn. He’s still learning and growing.”
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The Falcons know Thomas. They had him in for a pre-draft visit.
“(He’s) somebody that we thought was going to have a bright future at tight end,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “He’s got the speed to extend out and play outside the line, outside the core and make plays. But he has enough strength and grip to him that he could play in-line.”
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is a different quarterback without Olsen, his security blanket in the passing game.
Thomas, who’s 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, caught two passes for four yards in the opener against the Cowboys. He’s from Baltimore and played in junior college before attending Indiana.
He was drafted in the fourth round and will share the spot with Chris Manhertz and Alex Armah.
“We are very pleased with what we’ve gotten from Ian,” Rivera said. “Ian has done a great job for us.
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