Greg Little set for another chance to shine vs. the Falcons

(Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports) Greg Little
(Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports) Greg Little /

87. 3-4. Panthers -2.5. 1-6. 44. FOX/NFL Network/Amazon. Thursday, October 29. 8.20 PM ET

With Russell Okung doubtful to face the Atlanta Falcons with a calf injury, the Carolina Panthers could be relying heavily on Greg Little once again.

It doesn’t appear as if the Carolina Panthers will have the services of Russell Okung for their Thursday Night Football game against the Atlanta Falcons. The veteran Pro Bowler suffered a calf strain at the Saints and the short week has further limited his chances of making a quick recovery.

Had this contest been on Sunday, then things might have been different. The Carolina Panthers listed Okung as doubtful for their latest NFC South divisional battle, which leads to a player failing to prove their fitness more often than not.

Step forward, Greg Little.

The backup left tackle came in for Okung earlier this season and performed admirably in the face of some stern competition. The 2019 second-round pick looks to have made some strides following a disappointing rookie campaign and if he steps into the breach against the Falcons, then it represents another opportunity to stake his claim in pursuit of being the team’s long-term option at the position.

Little has given up no sacks and one penalty from 98 snaps this season. His 49.2 grade from Pro Football Focus is somewhat harsh. But the bar wasn’t exactly high for a player who was clearly not ready to see the field during his first year as a professional.

The Carolina Panthers will be counting on Greg Little.

There will be plenty of responsibility on Little’s shoulders if he is thrust into the starting lineup once again. Carolina’s offense has benefitted from the presence of two bookend tackles in Okung and Taylor Moton, with the latter emerging as one of the NFL’s best thanks to a series of exceptional displays.

This has given quarterback Teddy Bridgewater plenty of time to go through his progressions and move the chains efficiently. Little needs to continue this trend if he gets the nod as expected, which is yet another audition for the player with Okung out of contract next spring.

It appears unlikely that the Super Bowl winner will be kept around unless his $13 million in base salary comes down. And whether Okung has enough desire left to play beyond this season at this stage of his career is another element that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Little will get the first shot of making the position his own for the foreseeable future. This is why the Panthers drafted him in the first place, but what comes next will be ultimately down to the player and how he copes with substantial reps in Okung’s absence.

If he shows enough to convince the coaching staff, then great. But if Little doesn’t reach the required level then it might result in Carolina making a splash in free agency or allocating a high-end NFL Draft pick on the position in 2021.

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This is a high stakes situation for Little, of that there is no doubt. The Falcons don’t have the best pass-rushers on the edge you’ve ever seen, so it might be a good spot for the former Mississippi standout to prove his dependability.