4 experiments the Carolina Panthers could cut short in 2024

The Carolina Panthers are hoping some big gambles reap rewards in 2024.
Shy Tuttle
Shy Tuttle / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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Ikem Ekwonu

Ikem Ekwonu's regression during the 2023 season was deeply concerning. The former first-round pick looked like a potential franchise left tackle after an impressive first season with the Carolina Panthers. What transpired after was anything but, meaning the jury is still out regarding his long-term aspirations.

Ekwonu's technique in pass protection took a major step back last season. He looked incapable of manning things effectively on an island, was susceptible to speedier edge rushers frequently, and didn't look suited to the zone-blocking concepts implemented by previous head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown.

Had Ekwonu been a veteran free-agent signing or someone taken a little further down the pecking order, something drastic could have emerged this offseason. Given his physical profile and the fact Carolina selected him at No. 6 overall, he's getting an opportunity to bounce back and prove why the Panthers had him atop their draft board in 2022.

As previously mentioned, the Panthers spared no expense to acquire Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis in free agency. Having more dependability on the interior should make things easier for Ekwonu. Still, this does not detract from the significant need to improve where the North Carolina State product is concerned.

While confidence in Ekwonu remains high, the Panthers also got themselves a contingency plan in the event he cannot raise his performance levels. Those in power signed Yosh Nijman from the Green Bay Packers in free agency. He's seen more as a swing tackle than a starting-caliber performer, but it raises the stakes and increases urgency if nothing else.

Ekwonu will be the first to admit last season wasn't good enough. He's also highly determined to silence his doubters after a rough NFL sophomore year. Perhaps a fresh set of coaching ideas will help, but it could go either way.

If Ekwonu fluffs his lines and becomes a weak link, don't be surprised to see Dan Morgan and Dave Canales cut this experiment short.