Rookie minicamp is in the books and on deck for the Panthers is OTAs. Although Carolina has added depth on both sides of the ball, there are a few question marks that the team needs to have answered before the start of the season. We'll get a head start on those areas of concern today.
Is there a reliable left tackle on the roster?
The Panthers signed Cameron Erving in free agency and drafted BYU offensive tackle Brady Christensen in the 3rd round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Erving has never lived up to expectations after being selected by Cleveland in the 1st round back in 2015. Sure, he's got some experience under his belt but that doesn't mean he will be the answer at left tackle. Russell Okung only appeared in seven games a year ago due to injuries. Erving dealt with a knee injury in 2020 with the Cowboys and was placed on the IR twice, resulting in him missing the remainder of the season. I'm not sure Erving is going to stay healthy enough and even if he does, I'm not expecting him to be an improvement over Okung. Christensen is an older rookie at 24-years-old but needs to get bigger and stronger to be able to earn the starting job. His athleticism will give him a chance but it's too early for him to protect Darnold's blindside.
Is help still needed at safety?
Earlier in the week, Carolina signed former Seattle Seahawk safety Delano Hill after trying out for the team over the weekend. Aside from Jeremy Chinn, Carolina doesn't have enough talent in the back end of the defense. Kenny Robinson, Juston Burris, Myles Hartsfield, and Hill are decent, serviceable options but adding another safety could allow Chinn to play more in the box where he is meant to be. If any of the current safeties on the roster show the coaching staff some sort of progress, they may feel content with what they have. That said, knowing how GM Scott Fitterer and head coach Matt Rhule operate, they're never satisfied and will continue to view options.
Is the QB room in good shape?
Behind Sam Darnold is P.J. Walker and Will Grier. There was some speculation that the Panthers were going to draft Ohio State QB Justin Fields but after passing up on him for CB Jaycee Horn, the depth at quarterback is a big question mark. Walker started one game last year while Teddy Bridgewater was out with a knee injury and won the game 20-0 over the Lions. He had some nice throws and made a few plays with his legs but made some really bad decisions and threw two interceptions in the end zone. As for former 3rd round pick Will Grier, he has seemed to have completely fallen out of the race for the backup job. He was beat out by Kyle Allen in his rookie year then by Walker last season. Grier was inactive for nine of the last eleven games as Walker officially took over as the backup.
If Darnold were to go down with an injury for an extended period of time, is Walker or Grier in a position to lead the Panthers to multiple victories or at the very least, keep their head above water? We won't know the answer by the end of OTAs but it will be a measuring stick to see where those two are at.
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