4 Carolina Panthers who can help themselves most at 2024 training camp 

These players will be under immediate pressure.
D.J. Johnson
D.J. Johnson / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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Ikem Ekwonu - Carolina Panthers OT

The pressure is well and truly on for Ikem Ekwonu heading into his third season in a professional environment. After a solid rookie season from the formidable left tackle in 2023, the regression we saw over his sophomore campaign was a real worry.

According to Pro Football Focus, the former North Carolina State man gave up 12 penalties and 11 sacks last season. These statistics were among the worst for qualifying edge protectors around the league. It was a body blow to Ekwonu's hopes of becoming a future cornerstone piece for the Carolina Panthers.

If it wasn’t for the Panthers’ horrendous lack of tackle depth, then Ekwonu would have likely ended up on the bench. That's how bad things became for a player taken No. 6 overall just two years prior.

Depth shouldn’t be an issue after Dan Morgan invested heavily in his offensive line throughout the offseason. The signing of Damien Lewis means Brady Christensen moves into a backup role. He was a consensus All-American in 2020 at BYU after manning the blindside impressively. Couple this with the signing of swing tackle Yosh Nijman, and the margin for error is slim where Ekwonu is concerned.

The stagnant nature of the Panthers' offense in 2023 worked against the player, Ekwonu has always been a player whose meat and drink is in the run game. Carolina was rarely ahead throughout the season, meaning the emphasis was on passing the ball. This exposed his technical weaknesses almost constantly.

New head coach Dave Canales is looking to implement an offense around running the ball and quick passing. This should help the playstyle of Ekwonu. But if we see the same issues we saw a season ago, this coaching staff must be ruthless to protect quarterback Bryce Young.   

Ekwonu admitted to getting complacent and not working hard enough last season. That only raises the stakes further heading into a critical third campaign with his fifth-year option decision on the horizon.