CHARLOTTE – When he met the media two days into the offseason workout program, Panthers center Ryan Kalil admitted it was "very strange" to walk into a locker room with so many new faces.
He then noted that the vibe was strangely competitive.
"There's this sense of competition that I think is going to be really healthy for this team," Kalil said. "Everybody's trying to make a good impression with coaches and with some of the established guys, and that's something that I haven't felt around here in a while that I think is real exciting for this team.
"You can tell guys are coming in and sizing themselves up with other guys and established guys. It's kind of cool."
If he likes heated competition, Kalil will have to look no further than the offensive line he anchors.
With Kalil's best friend Jordan Gross enjoying retirement, the Panthers need a new starting left tackle.
"I think Jordan's one of the best tackles in the league, and so those are tough shoes to fill," Kalil said. "The good thing is, I think we have players in-house that can make a run at that spot, and I think it will be great competition."
The first name that comes to mind is tackle Byron Bell, a left-handed player who served as the starting right tackle for the past three seasons.
"Do I think he's capable? Yeah, I do," Kalil said. "I think Byron's gotten better with every year. I think as most players develop they have their ups and downs, but I think for the most part Byron has been fairly consistent, and I feel very confident with his abilities. But time will tell."
Other candidates include Nate Chandler – a converted defensive lineman who started six games at guard and two at right tackle last season – and Garry Williams – a tackle/guard who was the starting right guard in 2013 before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the opener.
"Nate Chandler -- he's been busting his butt this offseason," Kalil said. "You can tell he's put on some weight just to prepare for that. And then I think Garry Williams (could be an option).
"I think how those guys progress during this offseason stuff will determine what we end up doing at that position."
Of course, staying in-house isn't the only option. More competition could be on the way when it comes to finding a new starting left tackle.
"You can bring in another veteran guy," Kalil said. "The draft, obviously there are players there.
"I know a lot of teams are excited about the depth of the draft. I know we are. But, still, I think it'd be nicer if we were a little bit closer to the front for some of those (offensive tackles)."
Kalil is excited to see how the healthy competition for spots on the offensive line plays out, with an emphasis on healthy.
"The biggest thing with those guys is if we can keep everybody healthy, we have a good group," Kalil said, referencing additional season-ending injuries suffered by guards Amini Silatolu and Edmund Kugbila in 2013. "That's sort of the question mark really, it's not their ability, but if those guys are healthy enough to go, I feel really good about our group."