5 Panthers players to watch closely at mandatory minicamp in 2022

(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports) Xavier Woods
(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports) Xavier Woods /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu /

player. 87. . OT. Carolina Panthers. IKEM EKWONU. 2

Ikem Ekwonu – Carolina Panthers OT

The Carolina Panthers found their long-term left tackle this offseason when Ikem Ekwonu dropped into their laps at No. 6 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. This was the top prospect on their draft board and some good fortune enabled those in power to bring the popular figure on board to potentially solve an ongoing riddle for the organization.

Ekwonu is a difference-maker in every sense of the word. He is an imposing presence who obliterates everyone in his path on running downs and this is matched by more than capable pass protection to further heighten his overall influence.

Expectations are rightfully high for Ekwonu, who grew up in the stands at Bank of America Stadium and attended nearby North Carolina State. There will be troubling moments as the blindside protector comes up against some of the league’s best pass-rushers in 2022, but this has all the makings of a home-run hit if everything goes well.

Players like Ekwonu are hard to find. He is powerful and agile in equal measure, possessing the sort of mentality that goes looking for work rather than sitting back until it arrives.

This cannot be said of most who occupied offensive line positions in Carolina last season. So it will be interesting to see how Ekwonu changes the team’s mindset alongside other new arrivals such as Austin Corbett and Bradley Bozeman.