As we make our way towards training camp, we’ll be investigating the Panthers camp battles that will be happening in the trenches during the dog days of summer in Spartanburg – while some, like the starting free safety and nickel cornerback, are easy to find, some aren’t quite so obvious and almost certainly injuries will force others into the spotlight, perhaps some that we didn’t even think about this early in the process.
With that being said, let’s start with a group that has seen a ton of upheaval over the past few seasons, with 2019 being no difference. While it would appear that most of the starters have been established before camp has even begun, we still have questions about the group that will be protecting Cam Newton and opening up holes for Christian McCaffrey during the upcoming season.
While nine of the top ten roster spots are likely set, there will be a battle at the bottom – and the top is still unsettled.
No Question: The Right Side
The only question about this group is whether or not Matt Paradis will be fully recovered from the broken fibula he suffered last season to start training camp, but after participating in team installs, but not team drills – the same workload given to Trai Turner – during the spring, we’re expecting these three to be the unquestionable starters. Turner has made the Pro Bowl for every season he’s begun as a starter, and Taylor Moton had a great season on the right side of the line last season – pencil in these three at center, right guard and right tackle.
No Question: Depth Piece
The Panthers made it a priority last offseason to resign backup lineman Tyler Larsen – the versatility of the 6-4, 325 pound interior lineman who spent the last three seasons in Carolina played a big part in that as he served as top backup at both the center and guard slots, starting three games in Trai Turner’s stead last season at right guard and ten the year before as Ryan Kalil battled a season-long neck injury. Larsen will again occupy the slot backing up Matt Paradis, Trai Turner and even left guard if necessary – depth up front can be the difference between a loooong season and a playoff berth.
Some Questions: Greg Little
The Panthers traded up in the second round to draft Little, who they’re expecting to be a Week 1 starter at one of the most important positions on the football field – protecting the blind side of the franchise quarterback who is coming off an offseason shoulder procedure – and your first test will be against the Rams pass rush. No pressure, right? The left tackle job is Little’s to lose, but it will be interesting to see how he performs during training camp and the preseason – he’ll be given every chance to succeed, now it’s up to him to make sure Marty Hurney’s first-round grade was well-deserved.
Should Little not perform, the Panthers would have to shuffle the cards up front, with Daryl Williams perhaps taking up the mantel at left tackle and Greg Van Roten keeping his starting guard role from 2018.
Up Next: The Big Questions