Jimmy Clausen and Cam Newton shared a common denominator on their biggest throws in the Panthers' first exhibition: tight end Greg Olsen was on the receiving end of both.
Olsen, who came to the Panthers last month in a trade with Chicago, pulled down three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown Saturday in Carolina's 20-10 win against the New York Giants.
The Panthers hope Olsen's performance was a preview of what is to come this fall in the first season of Extreme Makeover, Tight End Edition.
At his introductory news conference in January, first-year coach Ron Rivera identified the tight end spot as an area that needed to be addressed. The Panthers signed free agents Jeremy Shockey and Ben Hartsock, and gave up a third-round pick for Olsen, who had two big years in Chicago before seeing his role diminish when Mike Martz took over as the Bears' offensive coordinator in 2010.
Olsen seems thrilled to have landed in Charlotte, where the tight end figures prominently in offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's offense. Chudzinski came with Rivera from San Diego, where he worked with Antonio Gates, the Chargers' Pro Bowl tight end.
"I think it's a great fit. From the leadership of coach Rivera all the way down to the veterans that they had coming back and the new guys that they added, I feel like they have a really good group here," Olsen said after Saturday's game. "I've been around some good teams and I think that this group has something special and has something going forward."
Gary Barnidge is the only holdover among the six tight ends on the roster. Barnidge, a proven blocker who did not catch a pass in 2010, had two receptions for 25 yards against the Giants.
With Shockey not seeing much action, Olsen and Barnidge were targeted four times each.
"I was really pleased with their play as a unit. I thought they did some really good things," Rivera said. "I thought their route running was well. They caught the ball well when they had opportunities. They ran well with the ball and protected it."
Olsen was careful not to put too much emphasis on the offensive showing, considering both teams sat their starters for most of the second half. But after failing to score a touchdown in four exhibitions last year, the Panthers will take it.
"You don't want to get too high. You don't want to get too low. But I do think we did a lot of good things that we can build upon and show what the future for this offense could look like," Olsen said. "There's obviously a lot of things we have to fix moving forward. But I feel like it was a good start."