Protecting Cam Newton is a big priority for the Panthers. Unfortunately for Ron Rivera, his team has a lot of question marks at tackle.
The Carolina Panthers offensive line has been a revolving door during the preseason. It certainly represents Ron Rivera’s biggest concern heading into his season opener against the Cowboys, as the team will be forced to start a makeshift lineup against the talented Dallas front.
Matt Kalil may not be a good left tackle, but his injury will rob the Panthers of the best option they have to protect Cam Newton’s blind side. The team placed him on injured reserve today, which means he’ll miss a minimum of eight games this year. Team officials are hopeful he can recover in time to boost the team down the stretch, but he will be sorely missed during the first half of the campaign.
Fortunately, there was better news for the Panthers at right tackle. When Daryl Williams first went down with a knee injury, there were fears he could miss the entire 2018 season. Now there is some optimism in Carolina that he could play as early as Week 1.
It’s unlikely Rivera and company will throw him out there that early, but the fact that he’s even in contention to play in the opener is great news for the Panthers. There’s little doubt he’ll regain his starting spot on the right side pretty early in the year. The sooner the better for the team’s offensive productivity.
That still leaves the Panthers in a bind for Week 1. Taylor Moton will try to hold down the left tackle spot in Kalil’s absence. There’s some possibility that he can turn the uncertainty into a positive for the team. Don’t be shocked if he plays well enough to keep Kalil out of the lineup once he’s ready to return.
The situation at right tackle is a bigger short-term challenge. The Panthers traded a conditional draft pick to the Lions to bring on Corey Robinson this week. He may not be overly familiar with the playbook, but he’s going to get a lot of snaps at right tackle against the Cowboys. The coaching staff will probably give him a lot of help in the opener to make sure he can hold up in his first game.
When you add all this up, it’s probably a net positive for the Panthers. Missing Kalil for eight games will hurt, but getting Williams back earlier than expected is more important. There’s a real chance he and Moton can form the best tackle partnership on the team. No matter what, both tackle spots will be an important issue to watch in Carolina all season long.