Carolina Panthers' marquee additions make significant early impression

It looks like money well spent so far.
Robert Hunt

Dan Morgan didn't have much money to throw around during his first offseason as Carolina Panthers general manager. The previous regime left the football operation in a complete mess. Cleaning it up was a difficult task - one the former linebacker managed to accomplish effectively thanks in no small part to the financial nous of Brandt Tilis.

The Panthers managed to pull off two marquee signings in free agency. Both were identified relatively early in the process and came into the organization with one sole purpose. This was to provide stability to the offensive line interior.

Robert Hunt was signed within hours of the legal tampering period beginning. The formidable right guard was joined swiftly after by Damien Lewis, who knows Dave Canales well from their time together on the Seattle Seahawks and will fill the left guard spot moving forward.

Carolina Panthers offensive line benefitting from two marquee signings

These acquisitions meant a position change for Austin Corbett. The former second-round selection is switching to the center spot after Bradley Bozeman's release. While this represents a risk - especially considering there is no specialist center on the roster aside from undrafted free agent Andrew Raym - those in power believe it'll pay off handsomely.

Dave Canales is thrilled with the improvements made to Carolina's protection based on comments via Fan Nation. He's seeing a positive change from the unit, which will help greatly as he looks to make the Panthers more physical within his run-first offensive scheme.

"You can see (the improvement) now. Damien Lewis, Robert Hunt, (Austin) Corbett in the middle right there, it's a very stout group inside really guard to guard. I can feel just the momentum that happens in the run game. I can feel that when they sit and anchor in their pass pros there's great space in that interior of the pocket. Those were the things we were hoping for when bringing them in and it's showed up in the spring, even in the setting that we're playing in right now."

Dave Canales via Fan Nation

It's hard to gauge how things look without the pads on. The intensity is nowhere near what this group will experience when the regular season arrives. At the same time, Canales' glowing praise only raises optimism about what this revamped offensive line could accomplish next season.

If this scenario comes to fruition, Young will benefit. The signal-caller spent most of his rookie campaign behind an offensive line unfit for purpose and unsuited to the blocking concepts implemented by Frank Reich and Thomas Brown. Canales is simplifying things, molding a system around the strengths of his players in pursuit of better fortunes.

Canales wants to run the football. He wants to adopt more run-pass option plays for Young. The tight ends will be more involved and play-action should be frequent. Scheming players open with creative route stems is also something working in Carolina's favor under his leadership.

Much will depend on health. That's always the biggest potential complication with those in the trenches. If everyone stays injury-free, don't be surprised if the Panthers' offensive line goes from an area of weakness to one of real strength.