Carolina Panthers’ Byron Bell Looking Good at Left Tackle
The Carolina Panthers showed their confidence in Byron Bell at left tackle very early on during the 2014 offseason. The decision is paying off, and I am more than happy to admit, I was wrong.
I preferred Bell at right tackle and Nate Chandler to be the man protecting Cam Newton‘s blindside. One game does not a season make, but Panther Nation has a lot to be excited about with Bell’s play on Sunday.
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Zero penalties, zero sacks from the weakside and never heard his name called. Not hearing your name called for most players means you’re not doing well, but for an offensive lineman, it’s great news. Byron Bell stepped in and gave Derek Anderson the protection he needed.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense is young, fast and powerful so this game was a great test for the entire offensive line.
Throughout the day Bell faced off primarily against DE Michael Johnson, one of the premier pass rushers in the league. Bell engaged and got the initial contact locked up early and often against Johnson. Facing off against Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson in practice everyday definitely prepared Bell for top-level talent like Michael Johnson and Gerald McCoy.
It was imperative that the Panthers also established a running game to support Anderson. All afternoon long the Panthers were trying to force the flow to the left side of the line. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were finding space wide to the left, as well as firing it through the tackle-guard hole.
Byron Bell had a great game yesterday and was the valuable player behind the scenes that doesn’t show up in the highlights or the box scores. If Bell keeps up this type of play, the Panthers can scratch left tackle off of their list of needs for the 2015 offseason.
At 6’5″ and 340-pounds, Bell is an inch taller and about 35-pounds heavier than Jordan Gross was at the same position. The fourth-year tackle out of New Mexico is only 25-years old, and is just starting to tap into his full potential.
Not only has he proven that he is more than capable to take on the second-most important position on the field, he has demonstrated an ability to step into the role of a vocal leader. During Training Camp this summer, Bell was constantly leading by example and holding his ground, despite rumors that he wasn’t the “right choice” at left tackle.
As you can see in the video below, Bell, though hard to see, is in the middle of the huddle pumping his teammates up:
Thus far in 2014, Byron Bell looks like a different player. The penalties, lapses in judgment, and poor technique were not seen in the preseason games, and rarely yesterday against the Bucs. Yesterday’s game is a prime example of a player who was constantly winning battles in the trenches. Having a beast of a left guard like Amini Silatolu next to you helps as well, but Bell looked like a man that was taking care of business exclusive of what Silatolu was doing.
The road to prosperity does not get any easier for Byron Bell next week, when the Detroit Lions come to town. Ezekiel Ansah, Ndamukong Suh and DeAndre Levy step onto the Bank of America field next Sunday and the young LT will have to dig in again.
Many balked at the notion that Byron Bell was ready to be the Panthers’ starting left tackle and that we needed to bring in a LT via the draft or free agency. So far, it’s looking like the answer was already on the roster.
Well done Dave Gettleman…. well done.