Panthers No. 74: Can OT Greg Little become a long-term starter?

(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) Greg Little
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) Greg Little /

Could offensive tackle Greg Little become a long-term starter for the Carolina Panthers?

The Carolina Panthers will take to the field for their 2020 season opener in just 74 days. The organization looks far different from a personnel perspective from the one that ended the previous campaign. And it remains to be seen just well they are going to get on.

Things have been particularly under the microscope this week after former quarterback Cam Newton found a new home when he signed a one-year, incentivized deal with the New England Patriots. So the Carolina Panthers will need to show they were right to part ways with the 2015 NFL MVP during the when competitive action gets underway.

Continuing our countdown feature ahead of the Panthers’ week one clash against the Las Vegas Raiders, we now turn our attention to Carolina’s No. 74. Offensive tackle Greg Little showed glimpses of promise during his rookie campaign. But he still appears to be a work in progress heading into 2020.

It proved to be a dismal year overall for the Panthers’ offensive line in 2019. The decision-makers have brought in some significant reinforcements in a bid to turnaround their fortunes. And they also made the head-scratching move to trade Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner to the Los Angeles Chargers in exchange for veteran left tackle Russell Okung.

This move has the scope to impact Little more than most. Many expected him to make a run at starting after a rookie campaign that did come with some inconsistencies. But Okung’s arrival means the player can develop at his own pace and come in on a rotational basis.

However, given the injury problems that have blighted Okung in recent years, it is highly unlikely he makes it through a full season unscathed. That will men Little must be ready not only to slot in at left tackle. But also show some significant gains as a sophomore professional.

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Can Greg Little become a starting tackle for the Carolina Panthers?

It is hard to gauge Greg Little’s ability to one day become a starter at either tackle spot. The Carolina Panthers have a quality performer in Taylor Moton at the right tackle spot. And it is essential that the organization gives him an extension in the not-too-distant future with the player heading into the final year of his deal.

Okung is also out of contract in 2021. And it appears highly unlikely that the Panthers will keep him around on his $13 million base salary. This will leave one of the tackle positions free for Little to occupy going forward providing he is up to the challenge.

The former second-round pick out of Mississippi was on the field for just 20 percent of the Panthers’ offensive snaps in 2019. He ended his rookie year on the injured reserve list with an ankle injury. Which hampered his chances of getting some much-needed minutes on the field in what turned out to be garbage time for Carolina.

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Little gave up three sacks and three penalties 224 snaps on his way to a modest 52.7 grade from Pro Football Focus. Rookie struggles are normally expected from a player that the position. And much more will be needed next time around with brand-new coaching staff to impress.

The current staff has no emotional ties to Little or any every draft pick besides their historic class of 2020. While this represents something of a complication. It should also bring a window of opportunity to make his presence felt.

How much he progresses his skill set between now and next spring will go a long way to determining his long-term aspirations. But hopes are still high regarding Little and what he can bring to Carolina going forward.

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