FanPost

Gratuitously Early Lineup Suggestion: Move Silatolu To RG

Good news: Amini Silatolu improved greatly down the stretch. That means that there is a very good chance that the left side of the Panthers' offensive line will actually be an asset on offense with Pro Bowler Ryan Kalil at center, the former Pro Bowler and still very much above average Jordan Gross at LT and the aforementioned Silatolu at LG. The left side of the line is where teams line up their best pass rushers, and it also means that the Panthers can call a lot of their running plays and roll-outs with Cam Newton to that side of the field to take advantage of that strength. Right?

Problem: the right side of the line is likely to struggle. (I am presuming that the Panthers don't sign Eric Winston, Brandon Moore, Demetress Bell or a starting caliber player who gets released for salary purposes on June 1.) Byron Bell can get better, Edmund Kugbila can be a quick study and validate the opinions of the scouting team, or maybe Hangartner or Garry Williams will improve (though I still have Williams, a former undrafted free agent who for some reason was given a contract extension while on injured reserve 2 years ago, as a likely June 1 cut) but this will still be one of the worse right sides of the OL in the NFL.

So, how about flipping Silatolu from LG to RG? Whether it is Hangartner or Williams, they still benefit from playing between Gross and Kalil. And Silatolu still benefits from playing next to Kalil. You sacrifice having a great left side of the OL and instead get a left side that is average and a right side that is ... almost OK. A pair of 1st round picks ought to be able to find holes on both the right and left sides of the line, and it will force defenses to defend both. Granted, pass blocking isn't the strength of Silatolu's game right now, but the goal is that by having him over there, the right side doesn't become a swinging gate for pass rushers.

Look at it this way: Hangartner isn't great, but at least part of his problems have been due to playing next to Byron Bell. Also, playing next to a guy who doesn't have the most ability in the world in Hangartner hasn't helped Bell out much either. But put Silatolu's athleticism, temperament and 320 lbs. on the right side next to Byron Bell's 340 lbs and if nothing else they might be able to just maul people. And Hangartner, who if nothing else is an experienced veteran with a lot of starts under his belt, would benefit from not being asked to do as much when playing between two superior players.

Of course, for this to be even viable Silatolu will have to build on his improved play down the stretch and make a huge jump between his rookie and second season. But if this happens, the Panthers have to strongly consider it. Hopefully by next season the Panthers will either have a long term solution at RT or Kugbila will be ready to step in at RG. (Since re-signing or replacing Jordan Gross will be the main priority on offense after this season along with finding an heir to Steve Smith, the latter is more likely than the former, and the Panthers will have to abide Byron Bell at RT at least one more season.) But this might be something that can help the Panthers get through this season. Of course, I am not buying that moving Silatolu from LG to RG and then back to LG will stunt his development. It is not as if he is being asked to play C or OT or anything ... he will still be a guard.

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