Carolina Panthers: Makeshift Offensive Line Leads to Troubles
Injuries force the Carolina Panthers to use a less-than stellar offensive line and the team continues to pay for it.
To say that the Carolina Panthers are going through a tough season would be a strong understatement. After dropping to 4-7 with another close defeat in Week 12, Carolina is far outside the postseason talks and wondering where exactly everything went wrong this year.
One place to start is the injury-riddled offensive line as Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Raiders stands as an example to how bad things have gotten for the Panthers. The offensive line for the Panthers looks nothing like the planned group that was pencilled in at the start of the year. Sunday’s game featured a roster that was held together by the proverbial glue and tape.
Cam Newton was getting the ball snapped to him by Tyler Larsen, a man who has never played this position in the NFL. Ryan Kalil, Gino Gradkowski, Daryl Williams, Michael Oher were all out of the game due to various reasons. Andrew Norwell is the only player that’s still in the position he played at the start of the 2016 season.
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While professional football has long used the mantra of “next man up,” the makeshift line that the Panthers are forced into using is tough to believe. Consistency in the offensive line is vital for a team to at this level, especially with the run-first style of play that Carolina employs.
With five games left in the season, the group has given up 27 sacks and 27 tackles for a loss. In all of 2015 the group gave up 33 sacks and 54 tackles for a loss. This unit of replacement players is well on its way to failing to meet those standards.
This plays into another developing situation around the frequently blows that Newton is taking. Yes, he’s a quarterback that’s much bigger than many of his contemporaries, but he’s taking hits that are very alarming. The offensive line is struggling to protect him and the danger is mounting. It will be interesting to see if the front office decides to protect Newton by sitting him late in the season if this offensive line doesn’t improve and the team falls further behind the rest of the NFC South.
Head coach Ron Rivera spoke on the dire nature that the Panthers face with this offensive line.
“It’s as catastrophe as you can get when you look at the losses we’ve had this year,’’ Rivera said, per David Newton of ESPN. “At the end of the day, teams that do stay healthy seem to have a better opportunity.”
The Panthers had that opportunity early in their 2016 campaign, but that fell apart as the offensive line was whittled down due to injuries. The struggles of their offensive line has penetrated all aspects of the offense and is one of the main reasons this group has failed to live up to expectations this season. Even though five games are left, it will be difficult for Carolina to improve their outcomes without finding a consistent group to protect their quarterback and move the defense back.