Some things just never change. Right next to death and taxes, you can probably pencil in ambiguity at the left tackle position for the Carolina Panthers as an easy addendum to that list of life’s certainties. Following the first few practices of training camp, we have seen Daryl Williams getting the lion’s share of reps at the offensive lines most important position, with Greg Little spelling him during his vet-day and for the occasional breather. This may come as a surprise to many fans, but really, what could we have expected to be different?
Well, the first possibility would have been Taylor Moton working at that position. Ultimately, I think it is the right thing for the team to keep their best offensive lineman from last season at the spot he dominated week in and week out. This shows a long term view of what our line can be, and I think the cohesion a unit can build by not constantly shuffling its pieces is more important than a potential short term gain by playing someone out of position. Moton is our long term solution at right tackle, so let’s find our left.
That leaves Daryl Williams, a guy who spent last year injured but was formerly the starting right tackle, and your rookie second round pick Greg Little as the potential options on the left side. I don’t think there is any doubt that the team wants Greg Little to be the starter at left tackle for many many years, however, that doesn’t mean they should force the issue right away. The success rate for rookie left tackles in their first season is woefully low, and thrusting them into action too early has proven disastrous for the confidence of many a player in the past. Don’t read too much into the clip below, because this drill very much favors the defenders, but it does serve to show the kind of speed Little is going to need to adjust to in the NFL (by the way, a DEVASTATING swim move by Brian Burns).
Taking that into consideration, it makes sense to give the veteran player who is playing on a prove it deal his best shot to make an impact while your rookie future sits and adapts to the speed of the NFL game. We are 100% certain to get Daryl Williams best shot this year as he attempts to prove to the NFL world that he is worth a sizable contract, whether from us or from another team. Ultimately, I still have a lot of concerns about Williams’ lateral agility, and fear that even his best might not be enough to give Cam Newton the protection you ideally want... but we have seen Cam Newton weather this type of situation before, and at least there is sunshine on the horizon for this always important left tackle position.
Looking down the rest of the line... no real surprises to speak of. Greg Van Roten will return as your starting left guard, and hopefully find a little more stability without trying to cover for Chris Clark. Matt Paradis is clearly the starting center, with Tyler Larsen the primary backup. On the right side, you’ve got plenty of stability in Trai Turner and Taylor Moton. Rookie Dennis Daley is probably assured a roster spot backing up the Tackle position, while competition for backup spots at guard is going to be pretty fierce. Right now, my money is on Taylor Hearn, but I probaly wouldn’t put more than a dollar on it. I would not be surprised if guard is a potential signing spot after cuts happen at the end of the preseason, along with safety and/or running back.