Move over Wesley Walls, here comes Greg Olsen.
With one game remaining Olsen's 65 receptions have already broken Walls' previous team record for a tight end of 63. Olsen needs just 23 receiving yards in Week 17 against the New Orleans Saints' porous passing defense to break Walls' current tight end record of 822 yards.
But the story isn't about Greg Olsen.
The story is really about Wesley Walls and just how dominant he was from the tight end spot long before the days of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.
Let's pause to take a minute and give some much deserved credit to Wesley Walls before his name is erased from the Carolina Panthers' record book.
No Wall Flower in Carolina
The 6'5" Walls was selected in the second round of the 1989 draft by the San Francisco 49ers but hauled in a mere 11 receptions in his four years in San Francisco. He then spent two productive seasons with the Saints, including a 57-649-4 season in 1995.
Walls joined the Panthers in 1996 and would ultimately spend seven years in Charlotte. His first four seasons in Carolina (1996-1999) were fantastic as he made the Pro Bowl each year.
Wesley Walls' First Four Years in Carolina
1996 - 61 receptions, 713 yards, 10 TD
1997 - 58 receptions, 746 yards, 6 TD
1998 - 49 receptions, 506 yards, 5 TD
1999 - 63 receptions, 822 yards, 12 TD
Total - 231 receptions, 2,787 yards, 33 TD
It was Walls' 1999 line of 63-822-12 that set the franchise record for receptions, yards, and touchdowns for a tight end. Olsen has now claimed the receptions record and will likely overtake Walls' 822 yards this Sunday.
But the NFL is s different game in 2012 than it was in the late 1990's when Walls was at his best.
Wesley Walls' Dominant 1996-1999 Stretch
The argument could be made that Wesley Walls was the NFL's best tight end between 1996 and 1999.
Walls was clearly the NFL's most dangerous tight end in the red zone during that stretch. His 33 touchdowns were significantly more than the 25 put up by Ben Coates and Rickey Dudley who tied for second among tight ends.
The 2,787 yards Walls put up between 1996 and 1999 were second among NFL tight ends, trailing only Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe's 3,161 yards.
Walls' 231 receptions were third most for his position, trailing only Frank Wyckeck (255) and Sharpe (239).
Wesley Walls was the only NFL tight end to finish among the top three at his position in touchdowns, receptions, and receiving yards between 1996 and 1999. He very well may have been the NFL's best tight end during those four years.
The Difference Between 1999 and 2012
It was during the 1999 season when Walls set the team records for receptions and yards for a tight end that Greg Olsen is now getting ready to break.
In 1999 Walls finished first in the NFL among tight ends in touchdowns (12), second in yards (822), and third in receptions (63).
By comparison, this year Greg Olsen is tenth among tight ends in touchdowns (5), fifth in yards (800), and sixth in receptions (65).
As the NFL increasingly becomes a pass-first league with tight ends taking a more prominent offensive role, team records at the TE spot are naturally going to fall.
Greg Olsen is undoubtedly having a solid season and deserves credit for all that he is accomplishing.
But as Olsen prepares to erase Wesley Walls from the Carolina Panthers' team record book, it is fitting to give Walls his due as well.
In a time long before tight ends were considered offensive weapons, Wesley Walls was as good as they came.
As his team records are beginning to fall, let's give some props to Wesley Walls.
Andrew Sweat covers the NFC South. Visit Andrew's archive or check out these articles:
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