6 burning questions Carolina Panthers fans are asking after wild offseason

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Bryce Young
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Carolina Panthers plan for Ikem Ekwonu

  • What's the backup plan if Icky continues to struggle? - Mike S.

Following an impressive and flashy rookie campaign, many expected Carolina Panthers left tackle Ikem Ekwonu to take the next step and live up to the No. 6 overall selection billing. Unfortunately, the former North Carolina State standout struggled more often than not in 2023.

Upon further examination of the film, Ekwonu had average offensive tackle play, though his lowlights were brought into the spotlight more due to Carolina’s history of inconsistency at left tackle since Jordan Gross’ retirement in 2014. The biggest issue seen with the blindside force was his technique in pass protection, something that can improve with consistent coaching.

It's unknown what type of player the Panthers will get from him. But there is a plan in place.

With the signings of Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis at both guard spots, Brady Christensen has been moved into a reserve role and is the likely candidate to be Carolina’s swing tackle. He gives the team depth at all five spots on the offensive line and could be a great backup plan if Ekwonu continues to struggle.

Christensen is entering a contract year. He'll want to give teams a glimpse at the type of player they’ll be getting should he hit the open market next offseason. 

The Panthers also signed Yosh Nijman to add more depth at offensive tackle. The offensive line has improved this offseason, but all eyes are on Ekwonu and the center position to produce consistent play if the offense is to take a big step forward in 2024.

Carolina Panthers WR room

  • Who do you think will be the starting wide receivers and who do you think we keep on the roster to open Week 1? - Liam B.

Great question, Liam. This is an interesting discussion following the draft selection of Xavier Legette

The first no-brainer starter is Diontae Johnson, who is expected to be slated at X-receiver, though Dave Canales is expected to move him around the formation based on matchups and coverages. The starter at flanker/movement-Z receiver is up in the air.

There is an assumption that Legette starts there. It seems that will eventually be the case. Jonathan Mingo could get the nod at flanker while Adam Thielen is the true No. 3 and primary slot receiver. In two wide receiver sets, Legette and Mingo will likely rotate at Z, off the line of scrimmage against coverage shells and off-man cushions.

That leaves WR5 and WR6 where you have Terrace Marshall Jr., David Moore, Imir Smith-Marsette, and undrafted rookie Jalen Coker competing for the final two spots. It wouldn’t surprise me to see any of these four make the initial 53-man roster. The undrafted free agent needs to prove his ability against legitimate NFL talent despite some impressive college film. 

As of right now, Moore and Smith-Marsette make the roster while Marshall is placed on waivers during cutdowns and Coker is moved to the practice squad. There's still time for this projection to change as the summer unfolds.

Moore’s experience and familiarity with Canales’ offense could make him a valuable depth piece. Smith-Marsette brings the critical special teams value as a returner, especially with the NFL’s new kickoff rules.