3 major storylines following the Carolina Panthers into Week 2 vs. Saints

Keep an eye on these headline-worthy stories involving the Carolina Panthers in Week 2.
Jaycee Horn
Jaycee Horn / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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Next man up - again - for Carolina Panthers OL

When Austin Corbett was placed on injured/reserve to start the season - solidifying he’d miss at least the first four weeks - there was concern about who would fill in at that right guard spot and protect the Carolina Panthers' shiny new No. 1 overall pick. Rookie Chandler Zavala overcame missed time throughout camp and preseason to win that job, and he performed admirably in his professional debut.

The starting five of Ikem Ekwonu, Brady Christensen, Bradley Bozeman, Zavala, and Taylor Moton gave off the vibe that this unit was going to hold it down until Corbett was healthy. Carolina's entire unit played the whole game on Sunday, opening gaps for Miles Sanders and Chuba Hubbard while providing solid protection for Young until late in the contest when the offense became far more one-dimensional due to circumstances.

Then Christensen was announced to have suffered a torn bicep, which he’s already had surgery on, and would be out the entire season. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool.

Deciphering who will fill in, and at what position, isn’t a simple task. Cade Mays had the inside track at the starting right guard spot initially, but he ended the offseason program eventually listed as the backup center instead, losing out to the aforementioned Zavala.

Another casualty of training camp and preseason performances was veteran lineman Justin McCray. The free-agent signing earlier this spring has a familiarity with offensive line coach James Campen and figured to be the first man up along any of the interior line spots should his services be needed.

McCray instead found himself on the wrong end of the roster cuts to get to the 53-man limit. But he did subsequently sign to the practice squad.

There are two other options. Calvin Throckmorton was picked up off the waiver wire and has experience at both guard positions – funnily enough, via his time with the New Orleans Saints. Then there’s undrafted free agent, Nash Jensen.

There was some support for Jensen among beat writers and fans during the summer. The undrafted free agent profiles a bit more as a natural fit at right guard, but if the team is serious about keeping Zavala there for continuity’s sake, I don’t think it’s out of the question to wonder if the North Dakota State product doesn’t provide the best alternative on the left side for the next three weeks minimum until Corbett is eligible to come back.

Starting a rookie offensive lineman isn’t necessarily something you’d be thrilled about to start a new regime. Unless maybe he was a high draft pick with an impressive profile.

Starting two rookie offensive linemen, one a fourth-round selection and the other undrafted? That sounds pucker-inducing.

Whichever path the Carolina Panthers choose, it’s going to be an unbeaten one. And the group will be facing a Saints defense that brought a blitz on 32.5 percent of dropbacks, amassing eight pressures, three sacks, five quarterback knock downs, and three interceptions.