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Panthers 2022 season opener countdown: 79 days to go

We’re counting down the days until the Panthers kick off the 2022 season.

2022 NFL Draft - Round 1 Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

We’re 79 days away from the Panthers 2022 season opener, so that means today’s countdown piece is devoted to No. 79 on the roster — offensive tackle Ikem ‘Ickey’ Ekwonu.

The Panthers drafted the 21-year-old Ekwonu (6’4, 320) in the first round (No. 6 overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft. He played college football at N.C. State.

Here’s a brief summary of his college career from the team’s website:

Played three seasons at N.C. State, starting 31 games for the Wolfpack from 2019-21. Earned first team AP All-American honors and All-ACC first team accolades in 2021. Was a finalist for the Outland Trophy for college football’s best offensive lineman. Earned a PFF grade of 93.8 in run-blocking in 2021, ranking second-best among qualified FBS offensive linemen. One of the seven “can’t-miss-prospects” from Next Gen Stats in 2022 Draft. Allowed just three sacks in 2021 (PFF) and led the team in pancake blocks with 67. Garnered third team All-ACC honors in 2020. Earned PFF Freshman All-America honors in 2019.

Ekwonu is expected to compete for the starting left tackle job with Brady Christensen at training camp, but he isn’t penciled in as the starter just yet. Rhule told the media last week that he’s not sure who will start at left tackle in Week 1, and Christensen is ‘one of the best players on the team’, so they will find a position for him (Christensen) at either left tackle or guard. There is a chance that Ekwonu starts his rookie year on the bench, but my best guess as to why there is a ‘competition’ is because Rhule wants to be vague with the media.

I believe Ekwonu will be the starter at left tackle (with Christensen at left guard) when the Panthers open the season against the Browns in September, because I don’t think they drafted one of the top players on their board — at a position the team has desperately needed to fill for almost a decade — at No. 6 overall to have him sit on the bench.

What are you expecting from Ekwonu this year, Panthers fans? Do you think he’ll win the starting left tackle job at training camp? Share your thoughts with us!