6 Carolina Panthers who can spearhead immense improvements in 2024

These Carolina Panthers needs to produce in 2024.
Ikem Ekwonu
Ikem Ekwonu / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
2 of 4

Chuba Hubbard - Carolina Panthers RB

During a campaign with very few bright spots, running back Chuba Hubbard was one of them. There is an argument to be made that the former Oklahoma State standout was the best player on a bad offense. He totaled more than 1,100 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns while averaging nearly four yards per carry.

Hubbard became the offensive engine once he was handed the keys halfway through the season as former head coach Frank Reich made an effort to get some semblance of competent play. The former fourth-round pick displays adequate vision as a runner and features a north-to-south, one-cut style that could make him a great fit in Dave Canales' wide zone offense.

The fourth-year player has room to grow. He could offer more flashes of short-area quickness that can make him a better runner after contact or make the first defender miss. Hubbard must also improve his already adequate route-running and willingness to pass protect.

The 2021 fourth-round selection is entering the final year of his rookie contract. There is no guarantee Hubbard will be the starter or on the Carolina Panthers roster next spring as rookie Jonathon Brooks could push for more playing time. Even so, he should be a key piece of the offense heading into the 2024 regular season.

Ikem Ekwonu - Carolina Panthers OT

Ikem Ekwonu was slated as the Carolina Panthers' long-awaited left tackle of the future. His rookie season showed promise in all facets, though it was average for most NFL standards.

Ekwonu’s run-blocking ability has stood out since he debuted against Myles Garrett and the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 of 2022. But it takes much more to become elite in the pros.

The former All-American offensive tackle entered 2023 with high expectations to become one of the better players at the position. Instead, the flaws in his pass protection technique were exposed to the maximum.

Ekwonu often crossed his feet in specific pass sets - a big red flag for any offensive lineman. He would lean forward when looking to land strikes, causing him to lose balance and whiff on blocks. The North Carolina State product struggled against opposing speed rushers plenty of times.

The third-year pro was candid during an offseason press conference. Ekwonu admitted to not taking advantage of the resources at his disposal and rode the highs of his rookie campaign. He knows what’s at stake in 2024.

Carolina’s young offensive lineman has plenty of critics. While they’re all valid, it’s also important to remember that progression as a player in this league is never linear.

Could Ekwonu turn in a rock-solid junior season to establish himself as a pillar on the offensive line? That remains to be seen. One way or another, this is a big potential turning point in his career.