Carolina Panthers OT Ikem Ekwonu's importance
If the Carolina Panthers are going to accomplish anything next season, they'll need rookie quarterback Bryce Young to hit the ground running. While it's a possibility, there's always the slight doubt about his durability and whether he can withstand the punishment from NFL-caliber defensive linemen for a full 17-game slate.
That's why it's essential the Panthers put the necessary wall around Young and scheme things up to the signal-caller's advantage. Something that led Dalton Wasserman from Pro Football Focus to name Ikem Ekwonu as Carolina's most important player after the No. 1 overall selection heading into the 2023 campaign.
"Many are worried that Bryce Young won’t last in the NFL due to his slight frame. His left tackle, Ikem Ekwonu, is the man who can put those concerns to rest. Ekwonu had a decent rookie season, playing every snap at left tackle and grading out at 65.3 overall. He had a couple of rough games in protection but also showed flashes of his massive talent, posting an 80.0-plus pass-blocking grade in four games. He was also occasionally dominant as a run blocker, demonstrated in part by his 96.1 run-blocking grade against San Francisco. Ekwonu could be one of the breakout stars in the NFL this year."- Doug Wasserman, Pro Football Focus
Ekwonu looked like a potentially-elite blindside protector at left tackle in 2022. If he can build on an immensely productive rookie campaign and others on the offensive line also meet expectations, then it could be all Young needs to thrive within a system that should play to his strengths under Frank Reich and Thomas Brown.