Already in need of help to spruce up their offense, the Carolina Panthers sustained a massive blow on Sunday.
Tight end Greg Olsen told reporters that he broke his foot in the first half of Sunday's 9-3 win over the Buffalo Bills in Carolina. Originally expected to return to the game, Olsen was carted back onto the field to start the second half in a walking boot and crutches -- an ominous sign that foreshadowed the worst-case scenario.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera confirmed to reporters on Monday that Olsen has already undergone surgery to repair his foot, but didn't yet know a timetable for Olsen's return.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Olsen is expected to miss about six to eight games and he could be placed on injured reserve. It's not believed to be a season-ending injury.
Carolina's offense put up a paltry 178 passing yards on Sunday and another 77 on the ground. While rookie Christian McCaffrey can replace Olsen's "security blanket" role in Mike Shula's offense to a degree, it has been an uphill climb to establish the versatile running back early on. This is not the same, electric Panthers scheme that upended the NFL en route to a Super Bowl appearance in 2015. The team needs all the help it can get and Olsen, who has made the Pro Bowl three straight seasons each featuring a 1,000-yard receiving performance, is arguably the third-best tight end in football.
So it goes for Carolina, a team that has a brilliant quarterback and dynamic skill position players but little help up front to make it work. Losing Olsen takes a knowledgeable intermediate target out of Newton's arsenal for the near future and will force Shula to look into a game plan similar in balance to Sunday's 32 pass, 28 rush look against Buffalo.
Carolina (2-0) has a game against the 0-2 Saints next weekend before stepping into the meat of their 2017 slate, with dates in New England and in Detroit before a home game against the Eagles and road games against the Bears and Buccaneers. It might not take long for Olsen's loss to be felt significantly.