Back in February Pro Football Focus posted a piece that addressed the Panther o-line that I think is pertinent to this position review.
Behind Kalil, the team was forced to move Geoff Hangartner to the middle from right guard, and it didn’t go well, to say the least. He ended the season as the fifth-worst graded center, mostly for his efforts in run blocking, though that’s not the only position where he struggled as in his four games at RG, he compiled a grade of -8.0.
At the other guard spot, Amini Silatolu finished the season as our fifth-worst graded player at the position. However, unlike Hangartner, it was mostly due to his inability to protect Cam Newton. For Newton’s sake, let’s hope the second-round pick can improve in his second year.
Amini Silatolu (24) 6’4" 315 lbs
I agree the second year player looked completely lost at times in the first half of his rookie year making us wonder if the kid would be able to make the leap from Division II school to the NFL. But he progressed in the second half of the season and showed the kind of ability the Panthers were hoping to see. I think the switch away from the base read option and more to the power set better played to his strengths, that being pulling and mauling d-lineman. If new OC Mike Shula does the same Silatolu will be a reliable cog in what I hope will be a much improved offensive line in 2013. As it stands, the starting spot at LG is Silatolu’s to maintain for the foreseeable future.
Probability to Start at LG: 100%
Geoff Hangartner (31) 6’5" 300 lbs
As Pro Football Focus’s advanced stats show, Piggy is a liability in the run game, the part of the offense the Panthers plan to emphasized in 2013. In particular, the Panthers would prefer to run to the right side, led by a big, mauling RG supported with a pulling LG Amini Silatulo. For these reasons I feel Hangartner is more likely to end up a back-up yet again. That is not a bad thing, as a spot starter that can play all three interior positions Hangartner has proven to be very valuable back-up. The one thing he does have going for him though is that unless another player steps and proves to be better Hangartner could be the week 1 starter by default.
Probability to Start at RG: 50% Probability to Make the Roster: 100%
Edmund Kugbila (22-R) 6’4" 317 Lbs
When Kugbila’s name was announced there was a collective ‘Who?’ across Panther nation. The Panthers had us scrambling for info because for the second year in a row they dipped into Division II for a OG. The coaches seem to think they got a diamond in the rough in ‘Big Ku’ as he is called. I’m sure the Panthers would love to simply plug him in at RG given his size and long arms. They might just do that but I’m thinking he’s going to be even rawer than Silatolu and therefore might not start right away. I’m hopeful he could take over at some point in the season but until we see him in training camp it’s hard to put too much faith in him. Yet to his benefit is he doesn’t have a lot of competition for the RG spot.
Probability to Start at RG: 45% Probability to Make the Roster: 100%
Hayworth Hicks (24) 6’3 336 Lbs
Hicks is a second year UDFA who has bounced around a little. His size would suggest he is a RG prospect that would really have to shine to make the roster. I’m thinking he might instead end up on the practice squad.
Probability of Making the Roster: 10%
Justin Wells (25) 6’4" 316 Lbs
Wells was a final cut down casualty in 2012 who is back for another try in 2013. He’s from a Division II school (St. Augustine) so he has that going for him. He seems to have the size to play either guard position but more than likely he ends up on the practice squad.
Probability of Making the Roster: 2%
Tori Mobley (23-R) 6’3" 290 Lbs
Modley doesn’t appear to have the size to play OG in the NFL but I’m thinking maybe he is a ST prospect. More than likely the Jacksonville St product is a camp body.
Probability of Making the Roster: 1%
In summary you could argue OG is one of the Panthers weakest positions. Yet they are really only one player away from making it a strength and that one player could already be on the roster. We can only hope it's Kugbila but we seem to have a couple young guys who might be ready to make the best of their chance. It should be fun to watch in August.
The X-factor: OT Garry Williams
Williams started 7 games at RG last season due to injuries and his inability to play RT effectively. If the Panthers plan to move Williams to RG they will do it immediately at the start of mini-camp. Otherwise he's battling for that 8th roster spot for o-linemen. Given the lack of depth at the RG position and the fact he didn't play it too badly down the stretch I wouldn't be surprised if they give him a shot.