Panthers News: Brian Burns, Miles Sanders, Ikem Ekwonu and Matt Ioannidis

Miles Sanders
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Carolina Panthers OT Ikem Ekwonu tipped for growth

Ikem Ekwonu's noticeable growth in stature during the 2022 season was immensely encouraging. It was a rough opening for the No. 6 overall selection against All-Pro stud Myles Garrett in Week 1, but it ended up being the baptism of fire he needed and a supreme measuring stick about what it takes to successfully defend the blindside at the NFL level.

Ekwonu's run blocking was renowned and as advertised. However, his measured technique in pass protection came on much quicker than anticipated, which is a testament to the player's work ethic and the coaching methods of James Campen.

The former North Carolina State standout's high standard of performance didn't go unnoticed by Adam Schein from, who ranked Ekwonu at No. 8 on his list of players guaranteed to make dramatic improvements next season. This was thanks in no small part to the coaching staff assembled by the Carolina Panthers this offseason.

"The No. 6 overall pick progressed over the course of Year 1, going one 10-game stretch without giving up a sack. He has the tenacity and tools to become a star on the blind side, especially with new leadership guiding his way. Frank Reich is a gem. Overall, the offensive staff is experienced and filled with high-character teachers. This is not only a godsend to rookie QB Bryce Young, but also to the man tasked with protecting the No. 1 overall pick. Ekwonu has the makeup and tutelage to emerge as one of the elite tackles in the game right now."

Adam Schein,

Having a franchise quarterback to protect should increase Ekwonu's focus. Bryce Young's elite processing and rapid decision-making are also going to make his life easier - so it's a win-win for both parties en route to what will hopefully be a blossoming partnership.