5 bold predictions for the Carolina Panthers vs. Vikings in Week 6

(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) Chuba Hubbard
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) Chuba Hubbard /
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Carolina Panthers
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Carolina Panthers OL unit that starts the game will not be the same that finishes

With the exception of the quarterback position, the offensive line has been a sour part of this Carolina Panthers team as a whole in 2021. It does not appear that there are any reinforcements outside the organization, but there is still another week until the trade deadline.

Cameron Erving missed last week’s game with what he called a nerve problem in his neck. But should be back again this week.

He has been less than ideal at the left tackle position, but Erving being active does move Taylor Moton back to his natural right tackle spot.

The issue however has been more in the interior of the offensive line. Pat Elflein was designated to return from IR this week but appears he is another week or two away from returning. His replacement, Dennis Daley, has had his struggles all season on the left-side guard position. He and John Miller on the right side have yet to show starter-type play.

Daley and Miller will start at guard yet again this week, but it is time for the Panthers to try some other internal options.

Brady Christensen did a good job in pass protection, posting a 75-plus grade in pass protection according to Pro Football Focus. Matt Rhule has described the BYU product as more of a guard than a tackle. However, it would be in the Panthers’ best interest to see what they have in the third-round pick by placing him alongside Moton on the right side of the offensive line.

The Panthers may come out with the same offensive line lineup you saw at the Dallas Cowboys, but by the end of the game, look for Christensen to finish on the interior.

Carolina might also consider activating Deonte Brown or bringing up Michael Jordan from the practice squad and see what you have with either of them on the left guard side of the line.

Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shi Smith /

Carolina Panthers WR Shi Smith is activated and serves as KR

The Carolina Panthers need a spark from somewhere and with Christina McCaffrey likely out yet another week, we have seen about all the offensive weapons the Panthers can display this season.

That is everyone but Shi Smith.

The Panthers have a deep wide receiver room, but Smith is a swiss army knife and can be used in a multitude of ways. One area Carolina has yet to see any real sparks is in the return game, although Alex Erickson hasn’t done much wrong in all honesty.

Erickson has served as the Panthers’ primary kick returner in 2021. Yet, the player hasn’t really popped.

In five games, Erickson has returned 12 punts for an average of 9.3 yards. Field position is key, especially for an offense that is in a bit of a rut the last couple of games with the inconsistent quarterback and offensive line play.

It would serve the Panthers some good by at least activating Smith this week and at least seeing what they have from him. The South Carolina product earned a spot on the roster with an outstanding training camp, which was enhanced by catching the eye during his time on the field in preseason games.

What do they have to lose? 9.3 yards per punt return and a total of five kickoff returns?