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Ikem Ekwonu
Ikem Ekwonu / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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Ikem Ekwonu’s struggles in 2023 

Can we get rid of our worthless left tackle from NC State? – Doug I.

Doug, I appreciate the question but calling someone worthless when they still have immense potential as a player doesn’t seem or sound right.

However, this has been a very tough season for Ikem Ekwonu, who has a Pro Football Focus grade of 65.8 and an overall pass protection grade of 62.1. The numbers are as you would expect from a tackle whose strengths are in the run game. His PFF grade surges to 74.6 on running plays.

Yet, I will heed that progression is not linear in the case of Ekwonu.

I have verbalized in the past my optimism around Ekwonu, even as his sophomore slump comes to an end. I still have high hopes for him. His flaws are correctable through coaching and teaching along with game reps.

Listen, having this type of conversation about a top 10 draft selection from almost two years ago is less than ideal. It could summarize the situation at left tackle. Some of the best offensive line gurus on social media have pointed to Ekwonu’s technique - or lack thereof - on many occasions.

The former unanimous All-American at North Carolina State hasn't been able to defend inside counters and stay consistent with his first step. He has struggled to maintain depth in his pass sets while failing to keep his hands and strikes to the chest plate of defenders. Again, these are correctable and I believe it can.

Ekwonu has the size, functional athleticism, power, and movement skills to be a high-level starting left tackle. He will need competition this summer to keep him on his toes. There is also the real possibility that he will move over to left guard, where he may have a more successful career.

I don’t believe Ekwonu is worthless. I believe the language used by Doug was reactionary to the former’s shortcomings against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

No. 79 can be a very valuable piece to this offense. Though, this is a crucial offseason for the former No. 6 overall pick’s future with the Carolina Panthers in 2024 and beyond.