Among the many questions and issues and transitions facing the Panthers in 2014, perhaps the most important situation comes from the fact that they have no one on the roster who has played left tackle in the NFL, given the retirement of Jordan Gross.
As a result, they still don’t know who’ll handle the fairly critical position that protects quarterback Cam Newton from getting hit by someone he may not see coming.
“We’ve not decided on a lot of positions yet,” coach Ron Rivera said, via the Associated Press. “The biggest thing we have right now is competition and guys working. . . . We’ll see how we are once we get into training camp.”
The options are Byron Bell (pictured on the right) and converted defensive tackle Nate Chandler (pictured on the left). They’ve been alternating on the left side and right side in OTA workouts.
Newton has opted for positive reinforcement of both players.
“Come game time, it’s no doubt in my mind that every single person will be ready to go,” Newton said. “That is what OTAs and minicamp are designed for — to get these guys prepared, to get myself prepared. When that ball is snapped I have full confidence in Nate Chandler and Byron Bell that they will get the job done.”
Of course, Newton isn’t spending much time actually preparing, because he’s recovering from ankle surgery. And he refers to the joint as “Little Ankie.” And he may eventually have to worry about “Little Hippie” and “Little Knee-Knee” and “Little Shouldie” and “Little Ribbies” and “Little Skullie” if Bell and Chandler aren’t capable of stepping up.
For more on the Panthers, here’s our own Darin Gantt, who covered the team for 14 years and who lives in Charlotte, appearing on Thursday’s edition of PFT Live.