For weeks, we've moaned about the Panthers offensive line. After Carolina's most recent loss to the Vikings, our criticism zeroed in on the offensive tackles, Michael Oher specifically. I've been one of these critical voices, using Oher's underwhelming play in my continued quest to defend Cam Newton.
Today, Carolina announced Michael Oher will miss Sunday's game in Atlanta after reporting concussion-like symptoms. Ron Rivera confirmed that team doctors have placed him in the protocol and it wasn't reasonable to think he it could be completed before this week's game.
Oher has struggled this season, but despite his struggles, he remains the Panthers best option at left tackle. Those of us who were critical of Oher's play, however, weren't uncompassionate. He did have to play against the league's two best pass-rushing defenses in the Broncos and the Vikings. It's been a tough match-up for sure, and one that Oher found himself watching from his back often as Carolina surrendered 8 sacks to the Vikings this past week.
Although we've haven't had a choice but to bemoan Oher's play, we all also know he's the best player on the roster to play left tackle. Now that he can't play, Carolina has to figure out what to do with a group of guys where the starters weren't very good in the first place.
When asked about Carolina's plan, Rivera stated, "we had a couple of guys taking reps on that left side. The thing to decide is whether bringing one guy in is better than moving one guy and having to put another guy in? We’ll see."
Darryl Williams looked incapable of playing left tackle during the preseason. He has shown some promise when playing right tackle, but he hasn't had any game experience after missing nearly his entire rookie season because of injury. As the roster stands, Carolina is left to shifting guys around instead.
Also in that update: Panthers expected to shift Mike Remmers to left tackle and start Daryl Williams at right.— Joe Person (@josephperson) September 30, 2016
If we were worried when Oher was in the game, not having him is even more terrifying. Remmers hasn't played well on the right-side, and if the Panthers history has shown us, switching to the left isn't any easier. Left tackle is regarded as a position that requires much more finesse. It's a position where guys need to be just as good above the shoulders as they are below. Nothing outside of hope has suggested that Remmers can make the switch and we see an improvement in the line play as a whole.
Sadly, Oher going down is one of the worst possible scenarios that could happen to this team outside of losing Cam Newton. Even losing Luke Kuechly for a few weeks, like Carolina did last year to a concussion, would be an easier storm to weather because of the depth at the linebacker position. Carolina was thin on the offensive line to begin, and now the tackle position is bordering on unmanageable.
Carolina's general manager, Dave Gettleman, signed Oher to an extension this season after adequate play in Carolina's run to the Super Bowl. It wasn't a move to fall in love with, but it was understandable and practical. Oher did well enough, and Carolina chose to look to other positions in the draft. One season of solid play, however, couldn't have convinced anyone that Oher was certain to keep up this level of play. Gettleman flew by the seat of his pants, gambling Carolina's season on Oher as the only option at left tackle. Let's hope that Cam doesn't have to pay the lion's share of the bet if he loses.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
Follow his work at @Cat_Chronicles