CHARLOTTE – Undrafted rookie David Foucault will make his first career start at left tackle Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints.
Starting left tackle Byron Bell is out with a knee injury, and he's also fighting through an elbow injury. This is just the second time in Bell's four-year career that he'll miss a game.
Carolina is coping with several injuries along the offensive line, and it's accelerated the developmental process of young players like Foucault, who is still adjusting to American football after playing collegiately at the University of Montreal.
"He's getting a feel for the speed of our game," head coach Ron Rivera said. "It's a little different coming from the college ranks in Canada. He's getting better and better. We really believe he's taken big steps."
Veteran Garry Williams entered the season as the backup at both tackle spots, but he was placed on injured reserve with a back injury on September 27.
Rivera said guard Amini Silatolu, who played left tackle in college, can play left tackle in emergency situations, but he will miss his third consecutive game with a calf injury.
That leaves Foucault, Nate Chandler and recently-signed Mike Remmers as healthy candidates to play tackle.
The Panthers feel Chandler, who competed for the starting left tackle spot in training camp, is a more natural fit at right tackle, and he'll start there against New Orleans. Carolina feels Foucault is a natural fit on the left side.
Ideally, Foucault would have gotten more time to learn before being thrown into the starting lineup. But things don't always go according to plan in the NFL. It may have come sooner than expected, but Foucault is needed now.
"That's the situation we are in," Rivera said. "It's a tough set of circumstances because of the injuries."
Foucault has played in four games this season, appearing at both left and right tackle and Rivera has been impressed with what he's seen so far. He hopes the rookie impresses in his primetime debut.
"He's a young guy that you thought would have time to develop," Rivera said. "But with the games that he's had an opportunity to play in, you get excited, you get intrigued. It'll be fun to see how he does."
SAFETY SITUATION: Starting free safety Thomas DeCoud is questionable with a hamstring injury, and Rivera said he will be a game-time decision. DeCoud was limited in Wednesday's practice after not participating the previous two days.
"We'll see how he is in the morning and we'll run him sometime before the game to see," Rivera said.
If DeCoud can't play, rookie Tre Boston will make his first career start in his place and Robert Lester will be active.