We continue our series previewing the major story lines at each position heading into Carolina Panthers training camp. After looking at the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, we round the week out with the hog mollies on the offensive line.
Perhaps no other position is a greater cause for concern for Panthers fans than offensive tackle. The team’s greatest offensive lineman ever, Jordan Gross, retiring and leaving a huge void at left tackle. Ron Rivera and his staff have attempted to fix this by moving last year’s starting right tackle Byron Bell over to the left side, which is a more natural position for the southpaw. Bell has been pretty awful so far in his career but should fit better on the left side.
The biggest problem with using Bell as a bandage for the problems at left tackle is the issues it creates on the right side. At this point, it’s Nate Chandler’s job to lose, which is a frightening prospect for Cam Newton and his surgically repaired ankle. Keep in mind that Chandler was a defensive tackle this time last year. The other key candidates for the starting job at right tackle are Garry Williams, who could also see time at guard, and David Foucault, a 6’8″ 320 lb. athletic specimen who was signed from Canada this offseason.
Despite the issues at offensive tackle, the interior of the offensive line could actually prove to be a strength for Carolina this season. Center Ryan Kalil has made the Pro Bowl four times in his career, including last year. Replacing the newly retired Byron Bell will be a challenge, but Amini Silatolu should be very good at left guard in his third season. He made the All-Rookie team and showed improvement before tearing his ACL in Arizona early last year.
Right guard should prove to be an interesting battle. The favorite right now is probably third round pick Trai Turner from LSU who seems ready to come in and have an immediate impact. If it’s not Turner, the most likely option is Chris Scott, who started a few games in 2013. Second-year player Edmund Kugbila as well as the aforementioned Garry Williams could also be in the mix but are long shots.