5 Panthers cornerstones to build around for success beyond 2022
By Dean Jones
Ikem Ekwonu – Carolina Panthers OT
Aside from the ongoing complications at quarterback, there was another major need for the Carolina Panthers to address earlier this year. That was the complex riddle at the left tackle spot, which hadn’t been solved effectively since Jordan Gross retired almost a decade ago.
With money tight, it was widely anticipated that the Panthers would finally address this concerning issue in the 2022 NFL Draft. Especially considering the incoming quarterback class was not deemed stellar by any stretch of the imagination.
There was one prospect those in power wanted above all else. But general manager Scott Fitterer and his team just couldn’t envisage many scenarios where Ikem Ekwonu would fall out of the top five and into their laps.
As it turned out, that’s exactly what happened. And the Panthers were right not to overlook a gift from the football gods.
It was a rough first fortnight for Ekwonu, who got his NFL baptism from defensive end Myles Garrett in Week 1 and gave up another sack at the New York Giants. However, he’s been exceptional in pass protection ever since and looks like a true difference-maker on the blindside.
Providing Ekwonu stays clear of injuries and brushes up his craft moving forward, he has the potential to be one of the league’s best players at the position. His elite run blocking was expected, but rapid growth in passing situations has been surprising and pleasing in equal measure.