Cam Newton struggles with pressure from the ride side of the line, and now two poor pass blockers are protecting him. Is the offensive line situation as bad as it sounds? In a word, yes.
The Carolina Panthers are one week away from their first preseason game and have the worst RG/RT tandem in the NFL. This isn't simply inference or opinion, the numbers bear true. For all Geoff Hangartner's faults (and there were a lot in 2012), he remained a steadying force on the right side of the line next to an inexperienced tackle in Byron Bell who can't pass protect.
Carolina wanted to see what they had on the roster, rather than address the team's offensive line needs in free agency, it's August and Ron Rivera is talking up Garry Williams. In the wake of Geoff Hangartner's release we're hearing how Williams "has done a really nice job", and how the team is "excited about what Garry can bring to the table". At this point any excitement about Williams needs to be tantamount to any enthusiasm about other players who have struggled and failed as starters.
It's pass protection where the right side of the line will die. According to the 2013 Football Outsiders' Almanac, the Panthers just swapped out a more reliable pass blocker for a worse one. Hangartner blew 6 pass blocks in 755 snaps, but did not allow a sack. Compare to Williams who blew 7 pass blocks in 606 snaps, allowing 1.0 sack.
This seems like a small number, but it's high for both players as interior linemen. Granted, it pales in comparison to Amini Silatolu at left guard, who blew 17.5 blocks as a rookie -- but as a right guard duo they weren't far off. Furthermore, Williams is now paired with Byron Bell, the team leader in blown pass blocks from a year ago -- allowing 20.5 missed blocks, allowing 2.5 sacks.
Cam Newton can run, and he better be prepared to in 2013.
The key problem with the offensive line as constructed is how the Panthers still lack an identity on offense. The silver lining to a Williams/Bell duo is that the two are the best players the team can pair for run stopping duties, combining for just 3 blown run blocks in 2012. We know the team want to run the ball more, but that shouldn't be done at the expense of Newton.
It's sound logic to take pressure off Cam by utilizing the run more, it's not sound to sell the pass game short as a result. Maybe there's a grand scheme to explain why this will all work out, but with the team talking up their current offensive line, it looks more akin to the John Fox ground-and-pound game, rather than the creative offensive scheming we saw from Rob Chudzinski.
The Panthers continue to swing between two extremes. All about the running backs, and all about Cam. If they want to make the playoffs they'll need to commit to one, and it needs to be Newton. By leaning on the two worst pass blockers to form the right side they are selling out the offense's best player, and putting the onus on the wrong ones. It's nice to see Ted Ginn emerge, but with a porous pass defense we may never see him used to his full potential.