3 Carolina Panthers already benefitting from Dave Canales' presence

Dave Canales
Dave Canales / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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Ikem Ekwonu - Carolina Panthers OT

Ikem Ekwonu saw newfound doubt cast on his future this offseason. The left tackle looked every bit the franchise presence those in power hoped pre-draft after a highly encouraging rookie campaign. This optimism came to an abrupt halt after a less-than-stellar Year 2 of his professional career.

Ekwonu looked extremely uncomfortable with the blocking concepts implemented by Frank Reich and Thomas Brown. Some technical flaws crept into his game and confidence waned as the campaign wore on. The Carolina Panthers and quarterback Bryce Young, in particular, suffered as a result.

The former No. 6 overall selection admitted to complacency during his recent media availability. Ekwonu was extremely humble and candid, claiming he didn't do enough to push himself and went through the motions thinking the job was done. That's the worst mindset for any player to adopt.

Dave Canales has changed that in an instant. The Panthers gave Ekwonu a supreme vote of confidence this offseason. They are also devised schematic demands that play to his strengths. Couple this with the head coach's desire to become a run-heavy offense, and it's not hard to see why things are looking up for the North Carolina State product.

Canales and offensive line coach Joe Gilbert will be tasked with keeping Ekwonu focused on the task at hand throughout the summer. The player got a rude awakening in no uncertain terms. How he bounces back will be key to his long-term aspirations with the franchise.

Ekwonu's fifth-year option decision is due next season, which is another motivational tool to potentially inspire him to better things. Canales and Gilbert will improve the technical complications that became an ongoing frustration last season. After that, it's down to the player.

And who knows, perhaps last season's lackluster attitude to maintaining high standards will be the best thing that's ever happened to Ekwonu when it's all said and done.