The protection on offense has not been good this season for Carolina. Whether if it’s been Darnold, Newton, or a few appearances from backup quarterback P.J. Walker, the line has struggled to keep their signal-callers safe from pass rushers.
This unit ranks in the lower half of the NFL in sacks allowed per game (2.6). Darnold was one of the most sacked passers in the league prior to his injury (22) and there are certain plays where we still see their line break down too early. Additionally, ESPN Analytics puts them at 27th in run block win rate (68%). Also proving how their problems are not only found in pass blocking. What made matters worse for Carolina was the ACL tear to starting center Matt Paradis back in their 24-6 Week 9 loss to the New England Patriots.
They should finally consider addressing the offensive line early come draft season. If they end up taking a lineman in the top-10, it would be something that we have not seen in a decade-plus. The Panthers’ last offensive lineman selected in the first round was tackle Jeff Otah in 2008 out of Pittsburgh.
The Panthers are in the market for any potential talent on the line excluding right tackle — currently occupied by their $72 million dollar man, Taylor Morton. As for a specific option, NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu would be a great addition. Ekwonu, born and raised in Charlotte, must be considered as he features a skillset that has experts viewing him as a riser in mock drafts so far.
If he lands in Carolina, he not only stays close to home but, he provides instant help for run blocking given his motor and his powerful nature added to his frame is a challenge for pass rushers to escape from.