The Carolina Panthers are going into the 2017 NFL season with high expectations. The front office has put together the most impressive off-season to this point in the Dave Gettleman era. Free agent acquisitions combined with the offensive weapons drafted have fans reminiscing about the glory days of 2015 when Cam Newton was the NFL MVP and the Panthers were the talk of pro football with a 15-1 record. Carolina fans are brimming with hope and anticipation of another Super Bowl run. The road to the Super Bowl will require many things to go right. One of them must be the health and cohesion of the offensive line.
According to the Merriam-Webster, Cohesion is defined as the act or state of sticking together tightly, or also defined as unity. Using the same app, Unity is loosely defined as a way of combining parts so that they seem to belong together. These two words are what comes to mind when I think what needs to become of the 2017 Carolina Panthers Offensive Line.
We know the core of this group is good, in fact, R. Kalil, Turner, and Norwell, at times, have been dominant. All three are perennial Pro Bowlers and R. Kalil has been named All-Pro multiple times. Daryl Williams (potential starter at RT) is young and has shown improvement each year and there is nothing to indicate to the contrary. So this could be his opportunity to cement himself as the RT of the future (or at least for this year), particularly with the unlikely return of Michael Oher. The group as a whole seems solid, but the newest member must find his place in the group.
Matt Kalil left Minnesota as a bit of a bust. The Carolina Panthers are hoping that’s not a fair assessment as he has battled injuries throughout his time there. Carolina will provide an opportunity for Matt to prove all doubters wrong and being here, will give him a chance to play with his older brother, Ryan. I think having the opportunity to play with family is going to be a very big factor in regaining his Pro Bowl form, which he accomplished in his rookie season with the Vikings. The Panthers as an organization have a tangible sense of family and togetherness. These things should help Matt with his assimilation into the culture that Carolina has established in Charlotte.
Matt Kalil needs to be physically in the best shape of his life when training camp begins. This way his main focus will be familiarizing himself with the system and plays the team implements. He can put his nose to the grindstone in perfecting his technique, making each rep a quality rep, developing the trust and respect of his fellow lineman and teammates. The unique situation of being brought to a team that your older brother has spent his entire career playing for provides Matt an invaluable resource. Should he be unsure of anything in any situation, it’s likely Ryan has been in that situation and can provide clarity and instruction.
The fans have placed the pressure of a 2017 Super Bowl run on the shoulders of Matt Kalil. He is the piece of the puzzle that has eluded Dave Gettleman since his arrival in Charlotte. Now that Dave has found his “missing link”, can Matt live up to the expectations of a fifty-five million dollar contract and the expectations of this championship-starved fanbase? Only time will tell.
By Joe Riollano
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