For the first time in over a decade, the Panthers have a young player positioned to be a long-term left tackle. The franchise will enter this season with a 10th primary left tackle option in the past 10 years, but Ikem Ekwonu appears poised to halt that streak.
Ekwonu’s arrival, however, is likely to move one of Carolina’s Day 2 picks from last year to a new role. The Panthers view Brady Christensen, a 2021 third-round choice, as a better guard option than he was at tackle, Joseph Person of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The BYU product has worked at guard and center during the Panthers’ offseason program thus far.
Christensen started six games at left tackle last season, allowing four sacks on 480 snaps. Carolina lost each of those six games, though the team had many other issues, and Matt Rhule said last year he viewed the rookie as an interior blocker. But the embattled head coach said earlier this offseason he saw some promise for Christensen at tackle, where he started the final three games of last season. Prior to the draft, offensive line coach James Campen also said Christensen would factor into the left tackle picture. Ekwonu going to his home-state team at No. 6 overall changed that plan.
The Panthers added new interior starters in guard Austin Corbett and center Bradley Bozeman. Taylor Moton remains entrenched at right tackle, leaving one open spot — left guard — on Carolina’s reconfigured O-line. Christensen stands to battle 2021 left guard starter Michael Jordan for the gig, per Person. A 2019 fourth-round Bengals draftee, Jordan has an extensive experience advantage. He has made 29 starts at guard for Cincinnati and Carolina in three seasons. One year remains on Jordan’s rookie contract.
Although Christensen was an All-American left tackle who generated Pro Football Focus’ highest single-season tackle grade in the site’s short history grading college players, it appears a best-five-blockers-type plan could produce a quintet featuring the 6-foot-6 lineman alongside Ekwonu next season.