5 harsh realities facing Carolina Panthers ahead of Week 3 vs. Saints

(Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule
(Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule /
4 of 6
Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu /

Carolina Panthers face growing pains with Ikem Ekwonu

One doubts many Carolina Panthers fans would have expected offensive tackle to be the weak point on the offensive line so far. But we’ve seen the interior excel while the edges have been inconsistent, to a certain extent.

According to Pro Football Focus, Pat Elflein, Austin Corbett and Brady Christensen graded at 76.3, 75.2, and 75.5 respectively, ranking them all in the top 10 for their respective position groups.

Compare this to starting tackles Ikem Ekwonu and Taylor Moton – who grade in so far at 45.3 and 65.8 – putting them at 64th and 35th amongst eligible tackles.

Ekwonu was always going to be a work in progress, especially in pass protection. Coming out of college he was known as a dominant run blocker still with some way to go technically in obvious passing situations.

The former North Carolina State standout is not alone as other first-round tackles and still adjusting to life in the prods. Charles Cross is currently at a 57.7 grade and Evan Neal is at 44.6, one spot below Ekwonu in the rankings.

Ekwonu should take note of Neal’s teammate Andrew Thomas as a prime example of what can be achieved despite an indifferent start. When the left tackle was drafted No. 4 overall out of Georgia he ended his rookie season with a 62.4 grade from Pro Football Focus, which was upped to 78.9 in 2021.

Fast forward to 2022 and through two games Thomas has a stunning 89.1 grade, which is first amongst tackles. Proving that patience is needed with Ekwonu.

In terms of Moton, the former Western Michigan product was dealing with a knee injury during the week leading up to the game. One could only hope this is a small issue affecting his play and the stud right tackle will be back to his best in Week 3.