There. I said it. For the 100th time, in fact.
While I've always said he's a class act, especially while quietly enduring all the criticism on him through his young career and going out and trying his best, Bell has never been known to be an outstanding football player.
I have seen SO many discussions and comments from SO many hopeful Panthers fans, but I'm a blunt realist. Recent drafts have pushed the left tackle up the draft board specifically because of the increasing pass-rush threat from that side of the defense. Byron Bell and his biscuit feet aren't up for the task. They weren't on the right side and they certainly won't be on the left.
The fact that the Carolina Panthers don't even have an offensive tackle that was drafted in ANY capacity on their roster should be cause for concern enough. Watching Bell's game film should be even more so. He gets beaten and leans/lunges/waist-bends to try to compensate for his lack of lateral agility and that's a no-no in the NFL. Just look at the photo from last season in this piece and you'll see what I mean.
Things only get worse at left tackle.
Byron "The Turnstile" Bell got used and abused against New England lining up against Shea McLellin. He's a speed rusher, and Bell has the feet of a right guard....not those of a 21st century left tackle. A 1940's left tackle PERHAPS, but certainly not for this era.
He was exposed yet again against Pittsburgh. He could not handle Jarvis Jones. AT all.
Bell has all the typical characteristics of an interior lineman. He's pretty much the largest o-lineman on the team at around 340 pounds. He lacks lateral agility (read: very average feet). He's not the best at getting into position for run-blocking due to that limited footwork ability, which is why he is much more suited to be kicked inside as a guard. At guard, and on run AND pass blocking, the majority of plays don't force the interior three offensive linemen to be on the move and the need to kick-slide is minimized since you've got a fellow lineman on either side.
Certainly, he can be a load coming straight at you. Just on the sheer....er....weight of his weight makes his momentum climb up the physics scale in the calculation of "force," but then again he's also not one to break through to the second level and help block downfield.
In short, his physical tools are limited. Against Pittsburgh, LB Jarvis Jones got by Byron Bell both outside and inside - the inside move really made Byron look bad. On one play in particular, Jones got by Bell so quickly that even Mike Tolbert in the backfield couldn't get over to impair Jones' progress. Only a heads-up side-step by Derek Anderson kept him from getting clobbered...and even then, Brett Keisel, a 35 yr old 3-4 DE who averages 2 sacks a season got around Bell on the OUTSIDE, hitting Anderson's arm, resulting in a fluttery incomplete pass.
Bell also got called for at least one false start on a passing down when he saw Jarvis Jones ready to rush him. Byron knows he can't handle speed rushers very well, and the weak side of defenses are replete with exactly that type of guy.
The fact is that the Carolina Panthers' roster doesn't have a single offensive tackle that was actually drafted by anyone, and that should say something about the group's overall athleticism. In this day and age, tackles on offense are getting more and more athletic. Sub-5 second 40-yard dash times were pretty much unheard of ten years ago for the position. Today, every year it seems we see multiple OTs running well. Sure, pure speed isn't a big deal for OTs, but it does demonstrate some degree of athletic prowess nonetheless.
I know I may get some heat since some fans think "Thou shalt speak no evil of the homers," but I've always been someone who calls 'em as I see 'em....and from what I've seen from Bell at left tackle, this could be a long year for Cam as far as protection goes. If Bell is struggling this much in the preseason, I shudder to think how it will be when NFL defenses throw their starters at him the entire game as well as more exotic defenses and blitzes.
Look for the Panthers to target a tackle in the 2015 draft. A left tackle. And EARLY!
In fact, I wouldn't feel bad at this point if they have to trade up, giving up their organic first and second-round picks to move up high enough in the first round to snag a guy who projects to become if not a dominant LT, at least a very solid upper-tier one with "upside." Taking a RT in the 3rd or 4th wouldn't be a bad idea, either. Then, we should have both breadth and depth at the position and can really concentrate on the defensive secondary and perhaps add another wideout that has some potential, but I'm getting ahead of things a bit at this point.
Cam has taken a lot of hits in his short NFL career. A lot of it is due to his running. Some of it is due to his ignorance of the baseball slide.
He doesn't need more of it from a left tackle who can't defeat a speed-rusher.
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