This next installation of our depth chart reviews covers the offensive tackle position. The Panthers are very well set with starters Jordan Gross and Jeff Otah. Both will anchor the line for years to come. The real question with this position is who will back them up. The Panthers lost both of their back-up tackles from last season when Frank Omiyale signed with the Bears and Jeremy Bridges was released. That leaves a number of inexperienced players to vie for the two stated back-up positions. The Panthers value players with the flexibility to play multiple positions. Using last season as a gauge I would expect the Panthers to keep three reserve linemen, two of which that can back-up at least two positions.
Let's start with a brief review of the starters.
Left Tackle - Jordan Gross 6'4" 305 lbs - Starter
Gross is a former first round pick from the 2003 draft that was moved to the left side in 2008 and responded with his first Pro Bowl selection. Gross isn't the biggest, strongest or meanest tackle to play the game but he uses very good technique, quick feet and leverage to keep his match-up at bay. The Panthers rewarded his nice season with a lucrative long term contract that will allow him to protect the QB's blind side for many years to come.
Right Tackle - Jeff Otah 6'6" 330 - Starter
Though Otah struggled with injuries in the first half of the season he showed enough to validate the big price the Panthers paid to draft him. I'll never forget when I reviewed the game film from the Bears game and on his very first play he drove PB DT Tommy Harris seven yards across the field! You can read my review of Otah's performance here. Considering how good he was as a rookie I can't help but get excited at what he will do with a season under his belt.
From here it is a guessing game but I know the Panthers are looking for at least one pure tackle and then maybe one G/T combo.
Geoff Schwartz 6'6" 331 - 70% chance of making the roster
Schwartz is a second year player who spent his first season on the Panthers practice squad working on his strength and conditioning. Based on Jordan Gross's recent evaluation of him after working out together in the off-season it would appear Schwartz is going to make a solid run at earning a roster spot this year. He has played exclusively on the right side and given his size that appears the natural spot for him. Though he is inexperienced so is all of his competition for the spot so I would be very surprised if he doesn't make the roster.
Cadogan is a rookie who expected to be drafted but surprisingly never heard his name called. The Panthers quickly jumped on the former All Big Ten and Academic All American and he is now a fan favorite to make the team. He will definitely have the opportunity in Carolina as the Panthers search for a serviceable back-up to Jordan Gross. Cadogan played LT in college and appears to have the size, strength, smarts and long arms to make the transition. Here's his pre-draft scouting report:
Gerald Cadogan may have moved himself into mid-to-late round consideration; he ran a 5.12, benched 26 reps and his arms measured 35 inches - the third-longest of all the offensive tackles at the 2009 NFL Combine.
Though it turned out to not be enough Cadogan could easily be the UDFA gem of this class. If by chance he should not make the roster he is a top candidate for the PS.
Jonathan Palmer 6'4" 336 lbs - 20% chance of making the roster
Palmer came out of Auburn in 2007 as a UDFA signing with the Eagles. He later played in one game for Oakland that same season. Since then he spent time with the Giants and Browns before signing to the Panthers PS in September of last season. It would appear he is vying for the back-up LT spot behind Jordan Gross. No word if Palmer can also play guard which would then increase his chances. As it remains Palmer has an outside chance at best of sticking but his prior experience might give him an edge over the younger players.
Garry Williams 6'3" 300 lbs - 1% chance of making roster; 20% chance of making practice squad
Williams is a product of Kentucky who has an outside chance of making the team. Here's his 2008 season preview comments and then his Walter Football draft profile:
Senior Garry Williams needs to work on his footwork to prevent the excessive sacks (38), but his all-SEC nod gives promise that he will lock his side down eventually.
1/6/09: Once again qualified for the All-SEC Second Team.
5/24/08: A two-year starter and a member of the All-SEC Second Team, Garry Williams was part of a front that helped the Wildcats average more than 33 points per game in 2007.
Giving up a lot of sacks in college doesn't forebode good things and he doesn't appear to be overly quick. Though he did play against top notch competition in the SEC he doesn't appear poised to make the jump this year.
Patrick Brown 6'5" 303 lbs - 0% chance of making the roster; 10% chance of making the PS
Since Brown didn't even make the Walter Football prospect list his chances are slim to none of sticking beyond this TC. In other words, just call him meat. TC meat that is!