Carolina Panthers OL is pretty, pretty, prett-y good
Ikem Ekwonu found himself at the backside of a fair number of jokes after the preseason concluded, some of it earned. However, the coaches reiterated that they weren’t concerned with the offensive line, and they weren’t hitting the panic button on their recent draft investment and future franchise left tackle.
Well, the players proved it between the lines of play on Sunday. Allowing just two sacks on the day, the group put out a good effort to keep Bryce Young upright.
The bread and butter for this offense line last season was opening lanes for the running backs. That reputation lives on after Week 1, as the Carolina Panthers rushed for 154 yards on 32 attempts – a 4.8 yards-per-attempt average.
As impressive as Ekwonu looked consistently doing his best charade of a brick wall, rookie offensive guard Chandler Zavala put quality game film in his portfolio, as well.
Zavala was tabbed the starter after missing much of the off-season program due to injuries. There was concern that he possibly wouldn’t be prepared for what was in store - such as Grady Jarrett -when the two teams faced off.
The former North Carolina State hogmolly showed above average strength and anchoring, two of the qualities he was most known for in his draft prospect profile. But the big fella also gave a glimpse of why his most natural alignment may even be on the other side at left guard.
Zavala moves quite well for a 325-pound lineman, holding his balance through the point of attack and timing his hands appropriately. By staying quick with his footwork, he was able to reset and keep his defender in front of him, using his brute strength to finish blocks.
Taylor Moton was consistent, as he has grown to be. The right side of this line may have sprouted a couple of new grey hairs for Frank Reich leading up to this one, but they answered the bell.
The interesting dynamic now will be, what happens once Austin Corbett returns if Zavala continues to play at a high level. Is it possible that the staff consider swapping out Brady Christensen in favor of the rookie reuniting with his college teammate on Young’s blindside?
Sure, it’s technically possible. It would also technically be a pleasant surprise and a good problem to have, stumbling upon some quality offensive line depth.