The 2011 season is officially in the books with a Super Bowl champion crowned, which means it's time to start taking a look back at individual player performances. As you can see we've been rolling out evaluations lately and it's Jordan Gross' turn. Gross has been the staple of Carolina's offensive line ever since he stepped on the field as a rookie.
The two time Pro Bowler turned in another solid season for the Panthers in 2011-2012, but a changing of the guard has taken place on the offensive line. Ryan Kalil has become the best lineman on the team and is the more dominant player at this stage in their respective careers. Still, Gross was a key cog on a Panthers offense that finally became dangerous after a season where it was abysmal.
According to ProFootballFocus.com Gross graded positively in every category that they track and he only allowed his quarterback to be knocked down 10 times, which is more than impressive. He did allow 40 combined pressures and there were times when he struggled, but for the most part it was another solid season for the veteran.
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The low light of the season for Gross has to be the Minnesota game when he was routinely abused by Jared Allen. Allen was a nuisance all game long finishing with a sack and he forced a huge fumble that helped the Vikings pull off the win in a game the Panthers probably should have won.
Outside of the matchup against Allen, Gross was able to win most individual matchups or keep them close. He did get beat in pass protection this past season more than we've seen in the past, but he made up for it with stellar play in the running game. It wasn't a Pro Bowl season for Gross, though.
Expecting him to return to All Pro form may be a bit much to ask as he will be 32 years old entering next season. Don't look for his play to drastically drop off, but Gross' best days appear to be behind him, although he will be solid for a very long time. The Panthers don't need to look for replacement quite yet, but strengthening the offensive line through the draft should be a priority.
Having Gross being a productive player is vital to the Panthers' playoff hopes next season, and for keeping Newton standing upright. There are signs of an aging player, but Carolina is fortunate to have a left tackle as solid as Gross is.