The Panthers had their first real taste of football against the Bears on Thursday night, and while the coaches will already have gone through the tape in detail and identified exactly how each player fared, for the majority of more casual observers it’s hard to get a detailed idea of how individual players got on, especially offensive linemen who are rarely the focus of attention. With the starters sitting out, the Panthers got a long look at who appears to be the backups at each position. So who performed well against the Bears, and who was less impressive?
Brandon Greene, RT
Brandon Greene is one of the players who is very much on the edge of the roster, and depending on how many offensive linemen the Panthers choose to carry, Greene could well find himself on either side of the divide. Given this, it was useful for him to get extended game time against the Bears, and there were some positives as well as some negatives. As a run blocker, he did have a pretty disappointing whiff:
And his somewhat upright stance caused some pad level issues, which led to him getting driven backwards on at least one occasion:
This also showed up in the passing game; in order to combat this, he needs to improve his knee bend to allow him to lower his center of mass, which is what allows defenders to push him off balance and drive him backwards:
However, the biggest concern was how he struggled to be effective when faced with a defender who had some space to operate. The issue here isn’t actually his foot speed, as most offensive tackles don’t have the ability to mirror in these situations, but rather the way in which he set himself up. By trying to face the defender head-on and mirror him, he gives himself almost no chance of success:
And the times when he did set himself up to force the defender one way, he did so by just allowing the defender a clear inside path:
In these situations, he really needs to set himself up inside and force the defender to take the long way around, and then attempt to drive him wide of the pocket. Neither of these issues are catastrophic, and there were some decent reps from him in pass protection in particular:
But there is certainly room for improvement and it will be interesting to see whether others get a shot at the back-up right tackle role in the subsequent preseason games.
Taylor Hearn, RG
Hearn is another player who has been around the Panthers going back to last season, but was only promoted to the roster when Brendan Mahon was lost to injury with four games left in the season. Given this, he is also right on the edge of the active roster and needs a solid preseason to cement his place. Unfortunately for Hearn, there were a number of issues with his performance against the Bears.
As a run blocker, the most obvious of which was his lack of push, such as on the following outside run where he is asked to pull outside the tackle and kick-out the edge player:
Given his momentum advantage and the angle of approach, he really should not be getting stopped here. Some of this is due to his poor pad level, but he also hesitates before engaging the block and, quite frankly, appears to lack the power to move the defender. Unfortunately, he also tried to compensate for this lack of power by leaning heavily into blocks, therefore putting himself off-balance and making it possible for defenders to manipulate this to shed his blocks:
While this made him somewhat ineffective as a run blocker, by far the bigger issue was his pass protection. Here, his strength concerns were made clear, as the defensive tackle he was facing was able to drive him backwards and up:
Similarly, his tendency to try and compensate for this by leaning into blocks was also exposed:
And finally, his limited hip flexibility and foot speed allowed defenders to simply sidestep him, even if he did a decent job of not just letting the defender blow by him:
Hearn is not a lost cause, that would be unfair, but whereas Greene’s issues are more to do with technique, Hearn does appear to be somewhat limited by his athleticism. It’s not clear the Panthers have any better interior offensive line options should they look to carry six interior offensive linemen on the roster, but it would be far from surprising to see the Panthers try out some other guard options as they get closer to finalizing the active roster.
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