Ryan Kalil was far and away the best OL for Carolina in 2010.
The triumvirate of offensive failure for the Carolina Panthers in 2010 was QB/WR/OL- these three facets of the offense were never able to gel and in turn resulted in abysmal performance we saw. Early in the season the offensive line was as bad as we've seen in Carolina for the last 5 years or so, but after some key changes (read: benching Mackenzy Bernardeau) the OL started to work better as a unit and redeem themselves slightly.
That being said, it was hardly a good year for the Panthers' OL and after the jump we'll look at all the key players.
Statistics: 16 game starter at LT
Gross looked out of his element for much of 2010. It wasn't that his season was terrible, per se- but much like other usually reliable players like Steve Smith and Jon Beason he just had a down year based on what we're used to seeing. Early in the season he was beat a lot, and failed to get a decent push in the running game. However, in spite of this he really turned his game around in the second half of the season and was named to his second pro bowl. I'll be the first to admit, it was nice seeing Gross make the pro bowl, but he did get a name recognition bump- because he wasn't as good in 2010 as we've seen him in the past.
Letter grade: B-
Statistics: 16 game starter at C
Honestly, at this point what is there more to say about Ryan Kalil? He has cemented himself as one of the league's top centers and has completely anchored this offensive line while Jordan Gross has been in flux (injury in 2009, performance drop off in 2010). Kalil doesn't really get noticed, and for an offensive lineman that's a very good thing. The Panthers franchise tagged Kalil for a reason, they know his importance especially with a new QB in Cam Newton and I can't blame them wanting to hold onto their 2-time pro bowler.
Letter grade: A+
Statistics: 16 game starter at RT and RG
I almost feel like Schwartz deserves two grades: one from playing at RT, and one for playing at RG. However, this isn't the way this works. When Jeff Otah has been unable to play these last two seasons Schwartz has slid over and filled whatever need the Panthers had on the OL. Honestly, he's a mediocre RT as he just isn't quick enough on his feet to be a 16 game starter at RT. When he plays RG it's a different story and his leverage and strength make him a good run blocker. In the end though I need to average out his performance.
Letter grade: B-
Statistics: 12 game starter at RG and LG
Some guys are 7th round picks for a reason, and never is that more apparent than with Bernardeau. He is easily the weakest link on the Panthers' OL when he plays routinely getting beaten at whatever position he plays. Ultimately, we got 12 games out of him due to necessity, not skill and I will be floored if he sniffs a starting spot again for any reason other than injury.
Letter grade: F
Statistics: 11 game starter at RT
Sure, he may be a bit of a 'JAG' (just a guy), but Garry Williams was thrust into a very bad situation and did quite well for the most part. He doesn't have any of the elite skills you want at the RT position, but Williams was solid enough that it allowed Geoff Schwartz to slide over to RG and help solidify the right side of the line. Ultimately, he was decidedly 'okay' and the kind of guy you like to have provide depth.
Letter grade: B
Statistics: 9 game starter at LG
Wharton is one of those players who really doesn't get the credit he deserves on the OL. He's always there, always working hard and usually getting the better of his man. The true mark of a good OL is realizing just how much their missed when they aren't on the field- and this was the case with Travelle in 2010.
Letter grade: A
I chose to only focus on the players who started games for the Panthers in 2010. The rest of the guys like Rob Pettiti and Chris Morris didn't raise the needle enough to be mentioned.
In the end, this was a situation where the the whole was far worse than it's parts. If you average out my letter grades you don't get a terrible result- but it was a situation where all the OL chose the same time to have bad games. When Schwartz was at his worst at RT, so was Bernardeau at RG, when Gross was struggling so was Wharton and so on. It was painful to watch because as a unit they never really got on the same page.
Overall grade: D