The Silver O-Lining: Why Panthers Fans Should Feel Optimistic Heading Into 2019by Prime Time Sports Talk February 11, 2019 2 comments
The 2018 season was a promising year for the Carolina Panthers’ offensive line.
Dating back to training camp, the position was decimated due to injuries, which were suffered by several linemen, including Darryl Willams, Matt Kalil, and Amini Silatolu.
The Panthers ranked seventh for the least amount of sacks given up (two per game). Previously, the Panthers had never finished inside the top ten, making 2018 the best ranking it has ever received since Cam Newton joined the team in 2011.
The credit belongs to Ron Rivera who, in the face of adversity, didn’t blink. Two replacement candidates in journeyman Greg Van Roten and rookie Brendan McMahon would now take on more pivotal roles in the team’s offensive scheme.
Perhaps the biggest diamond in the rough was the rapid maturation of second-year tackle Taylor Moton, who became an intransigent force at the tackle position. Pro Football Focus gave Moton a grade of 76.2%, which puts him at the ranking of 16th best tackle in the league during the 2018 season.
An underestimated but determined offensive line led the Carolina Panthers to a hot 6-2 start. Solid play up front play attributed to the breakout of star running back Christian McCaffery, who totaled 1,965 all-purpose yards for the year. The Panthers finished fourth in the league in rushing (133.5 yards per game) and tenth in overall yardage (373.2 yards per game). A promising start to the season would be followed by a paradigm of losses which included many close games when they entered the fourth quarter.
With Cam Newton clearly playing injured, the offensive line would struggle due to simplified play-calling to protect Newton’s ineffective arm, which he admitted could not throw a football more than thirty yards.
The 2018 season truly showed that the Carolina offensive line gave an admirable effort, finishing with the 17th best offensive line in the league, per PFF.
This unit played with a band-of-brothers mentality all year long, which didn’t bend, nor fold when facing contretemps.
For an offensive line pieced together with free agents, journeymen, and an unproven rookie, they really held their own under the giving circumstances. Panthers fans should have high hopes about their team’s offensive line heading into 2019, for what was an inexperienced offensive line has now become game-tested, adding proven depth to the lineup. There’s always room for improvement, and the retirement of Ryan Kalil will likely bring on yet another change at center.