As Panthers fans, we already know that the offensive line is one of the weaker parts of the team. We've seen that evidenced by the lack of a consistent running game and Cam Newton's necessity to escape the pocket sooner than he probably wants to leave.
We're not the only ones who've noticed. Evan Silva of Rotoworld has published a ranking of all 32 offensive lines in the NFL, and the Panthers are - as expected - not rated highly at all. In fact, the Panthers are ranked the worst among all the teams in the NFC South, and are in the bottom third of the entire league.
Here's Silva with his ranking:
(Note: number in parentheses indicates number of returning starters. Players with asterisks denote new starters.)23. Carolina Panthers (5)
2012 Run Block Rankings: 10 (Pro Football Focus), 30 (Football Outsiders)
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 27 (PFF), 21 (FO)
LT: Jordan Gross
LG: Amini Silatolu
C: Ryan Kalil*
RG: Geoff Hangartner
RT: Byron Bell
Super Sub: T/G Garry Williams
Overview: Although Kalil has been Carolina's stalwart center since breaking into the starting lineup in 2008, he is listed as a "new starter" here because he missed all but five games last season with a Lisfranc fracture. Hangartner slid to center and guard Jeff Byers was forced onto the first string with largely disastrous results.
Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams slugged their way to a combined 4.03 YPC average while Cam Newton's sack rate rose from 6.3 to 6.9 percent of his dropbacks. Kalil's return will help the up-front cause, but Hangartner is still penciled in at right guard and Bell graded out 60th-of-80 qualifying tackles in Pro Football Focus' 2012 ratings. Cap-strapped Carolina didn't have financial means to address the line much this offseason. The only notable reinforcement is fourth-round guard Edmund Kugbila, a project from Valdosta State.
While having a mobile QB like Newton can mitigate some deficiencies in the offensive line, the Panthers certainly need to improve that group if they want to build a serious playoff contender. Getting Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil back in the starting lineup will go a long way in improving the Panthers' subpar performance from 2012, and the maturation of left guard Amini Silatolu should also give Cam Newton better protection than he had last season.
If the Panthers can stay away from the injury bug that plagued them last year they should see some drastic improvement in 2013, so we should hope against all hope that all the hog mollies can stay healthy.
On the bright side, they can't get much worse than they were last year, so at least there's that.
What do you think about Silva's rankings? Do you agree or disagree? Tell us what you think!