Panthers Position Preview: Offensive Line Still an Unknown

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 22: Trai Turner #70 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on August 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 22: Trai Turner #70 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on August 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Offensive Line Is (still) The Biggest Question Mark For the Panthers

Once again, the Carolina Panthers‘ offensive line comes into the season with just as many questions as last season, and following a strong start to the year last season, the team once again failed to protect Cam Newton.

Much of the season was highlighted by shuffling on the offensive line to compensate for the often injured Matt Kalil and Daryl Williams, with M. Kalil, in particular, being one of the worst free-agent acquisitions for the Panthers in recent memory.

Despite the constant shuffling, Trai Turner continued his improvement on the line and showed he could anchor that line on his own, which was a major question going forward with the looming retirement of Ryan Kalil.

One of the positive’s the team saw from the offensive line this past season was the improvement in keeping Newton upright. They once again lowered the number of sacks taken by Newton again, after getting sacked 36 times in 2016, Newton took 25 sacks in 2017 and then 32 sacks in 2018.

In addition to allowing fewer sacks on Newton, the O-line has made improvements in making sure he isn’t taking hits in the pocket. Newton took 93 hits in the pocket in 2016, and the team dropped it to 78 hits in 2018.

How the Offensive Line Changed During the Offseason

The first thing the Panthers took care of was making sure that M. Kalil’s contract was no longer on the team, as he was released by the team to clear some cap space.

Unfortunately, the Panthers also lost R. Kalil to retirement during the offseason as well, leaving a hole in the middle of the offensive line.

Fortunately, the Panthers replaced R. Kalil almost as quickly as he retired, as the team’s biggest acquisition was former Denver Broncos center Matt Paradis, who has been billed as one of the best centers in the league at the moment. The team also re-signed Williams to a one year contract.

The Panthers went to further lengths to improve the play on the offensive line, as the team used a second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Ole Miss left tackle Greg Little. The pick was heralded as one of the best steals of the draft, as many considered LIttle to be a first-round pick.

The Panthers also drafted Dennis Daley from South Carolina in the sixth round, who could be a sleeper pick with the team, as the player was able to hold his own against some of the top pass-rushers in college football, including Josh Allen. If he plays well, he could develop into a starting-caliber player for the Panthers.

Projections for the Offensive Line in 2019

The Panthers have a chance to improve the team’s performance on the line, or it could be a disaster, it honestly could go either way.

We are leaning towards the former since most of that core group of linemen, save for the Kalil brothers, are still a part of the roster. One of the hidden gems on the roster, Taylor Moton proved to be serviceable starting all 16 games for the Panthers, and in those 16 starts, he was only penalized for holding three times.

Moton could get more time playing at tackle if Williams continues to get hurt and can’t find the field for the Panthers. However, if Williams can stay healthy, Moton could easily shift to guard and allow Little to play the position he is most comfortable to play.

The Panthers will have a tough test playing the Los Angeles Rams and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald in their first game of the season, but for the most part, the team faces only one team in its first eight games that finished in the top-10 in team sacks the year before.

The end will be the difficult part, as the team faces four matchups against teams in the top-10 in sacks from the year before in the second half of the schedule. If the team can finally put a consistent unit during the later stages of the year, they can finally have the solid offensive line it for the most part never had during the Cam Newton era.