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Scott Procter Scott Procter BVM Sports Senior Editor/Journalist
Tommy Tremble, Ian Thomas must step up for Panthers offense

Tommy Tremble, Ian Thomas must step up for Panthers offense

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Baker Mayfield made his Carolina Panthers debut on Sunday against his former team, the Cleveland Browns, and it included just about everything a football fan could want in a Week 1 matchup. Big plays, turnovers and a wild finish were all present in the Browns’ 26-24 win at Bank of America Stadium. 

For the Panthers, it was a disappointing start to the Mayfield era, especially considering that Carolina took a 24-23 lead with 1:13 left before the Browns and rookie Cade York answered with a 58-yard, game-winning field goal with eight seconds remaining. Despite the fact that the Panthers scored just seven points through three quarters, their superstar running back Christian McCaffrey had the fewest amount of touches (14) in a game he didn’t leave injured since 2018 and Mayfield fumbled four times (all recovered), each of those shortcomings will likely be an outlier by season’s end.

However, one glaring issue that showed up for the Panthers on Sunday may not be so easily fixed.

“The player who needs to step up is actually an entire room,” Ellis L. Williams, Panthers beat writer at the Charlotte Observer, said. “This tight end room; I am really concerned about.” 

Ian Thomas – who was taken in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft by Carolina and signed a three-year, $16.95 million extension with the Panthers in February — paced Carolina’s tight end room with just three targets and parlayed that into two catches for 53 yards. While respectable on the surface, the majority of Thomas’ Week 1 production came on one play, a 50-yard catch and run thanks to a blown coverage by the Browns.

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Tommy Tremble – a third-round pick of the Panthers in 2021 – was the only other tight end to register a target as he caught his only look for one yard. 

Carolina’s lack of production from the tight end spot is concerning not only because of the relatively significant draft capital the franchise has used on the position in recent years, but because of Mayfield’s propensity to target this group. 

Last season in Cleveland, tight end Austin Hooper was second on the Browns in targets (61) while fellow tight end David Njoku finished fourth on the team in that category (53). Njoku even led the team in receiving touchdowns (4) while Hooper and tight end Harrison Bryant finished tied for second on the team with three apiece. 

It’s clear that Mayfield relies on his tight ends as a security blanket, third-down target and red zone threat but that part of his game appeared to be non-existent in Week 1. It’s probably why the Panthers started so slow offensively and dug themselves a hole they could not get out of. 

Carolina gained just 13 yards in its first five possessions as it fell behind 14-0. Mayfield – who finished 16-of-27 for 235 yards and one touchdown to one interception — and this offense came alive in the fourth quarter with 17 points, but Thomas or Tremble – or someone else — must make their presence felt moving forward if the Panthers want consistent success. 

“I’m not sure if it’s Ian Thomas or second-year tight end Tommy Tremble out of Notre Dame who they were high on, but this team needs to find a tight end eventually because in those gotta-have-it moments, that’s just where Baker naturally wants to go and I don’t know if they have that guy right now,” Williams said.

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