Russell Okung’s high standards are being felt with the Panthers

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Russell Okung
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Russell Okung /

Russell Okung is demanding more from the Carolina Panthers’ offensive line when they travel to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2.

The offensive line play of the Carolina Panthers might have been a pleasant surprise from the outside looking in. But veteran Russell Okung holds himself to a higher standard.

Okung made his debut for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in their Week 1 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. But there was a lot to like about the sort of protection Teddy Bridgewater received throughout the contest.

Despite their surprisingly good play, the Pro Bowler is demanding improvement from the unit next weekend at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Their inability to get the necessary push on a pivotal fourth-and-one proved to be their eventual downfall and this was at the forefront of Okung’s mind when speaking to the media.

"Honestly, the game comes down to fourth-and-1. We did not do enough to win the game, especially when it was on our backs. I think any offensive lineman has enough pride and the gumption to say that when the game is on the line, and you’re supposed to get a yard, you need that yard. I’m extremely disappointed in myself. We needed more. And we’ve got to figure out a way to win those situations."

Russell Okung’s influence on the Carolina Panthers is growing.

Okung is a Super Bowl winner who knows what it takes for a team to be successful. He has been around organizations who have achieved plenty throughout his career and the Panthers are counting on him heavily to become a leader and assist them during this expected period of transition for the franchise.

Whether Okung is going to be around after the 2020 season is up for debate. He is heading into the final year of his deal and is making a base salary of $13 million. The left tackle doesn’t need the cash, one would expect. So it will all come down to how much desire he has to prolong his playing career.

His first game in a Panthers’ uniform was superb. Okung provided a prominent blindside presence for Bridgewater to go through his reads and managed to attain a creditable 73.1-grade from Pro Football Focus as a result of his efforts.

Okung is expecting a stern test of his credentials this weekend against Shaquil Barrett, who enjoyed a standout campaign in 2019 that saw him placed on the franchise tag this offseason.

"He’s going to give you a bunch of different rushes. I’m sure he watches a ton of film. He has a different play for every single tackle he plays against. I’ve been playing against that guy for years. I’m going to have my hands full."

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Having someone that holds himself and his teammates to account is a tremendous asset to have in the locker room. If Okung can continue to perform at the level we saw on Sunday then the Panthers will be better off for it, no matter how critical he was of his own production.