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Offensive line now has another challenge to overcome

Bradley Bozeman, Bryce Young

CHARLOTTE — There's an emotional toll on the Panthers seeing right guard Austin Corbett go down for the season with another knee injury.

But there's also an acute practical problem for them, since his absence for the rest of the year injects another shot of uncertainty into a position that hasn't been stable all season.

The Panthers have used four different players and made four changes at left guard this season, going from Brady Christensen to Chandler Zavala to Cade Mays to Calvin Throckmorton and back to Zavala.

They've used four different players and made three changes at right guard, going from Zavala to Mays to Throckmorton to Corbett. The fourth change is coming to that position this week, though head coach Frank Reich didn't want to share his plan there on Wednesday.

"You know, it's a great opportunity for these young guys and it is yeah, in some ways it is a fresh slate," Reich said. "These guys are going to get an opportunity to play."

The Panthers are entering the pick from a bunch of young options, with Zavala and Mays in place, along with Brett Toth and Nash Jensen. Regardless how they deploy those options, they know that the book is out on them this season, and teams have chosen to attack them with pressure inside, as Dallas did last week during a seven-sack outburst.

"We've been getting hit with it on tape," Corbett said of what his replacements would have to expect. "So it's a copycat league and so that's what teams are gonna follow up with.

"So we understand that, and we know it's kind of where the deficiencies are, and we know that that's what they'll continue to do. So it's up to the guys to go get it done."

Table inside Article
Game Left guard Right guard
at Atlanta Christensen Zavala
New Orleans Zavala Mays
at Seattle Zavala Throckmorton
Minnesota Zavala Throckmorton
at Detroit Zavala Throckmorton
at Miami Mays Throckmorton
Houston Throckmorton Corbett
Indianapolis Throckmorton Corbett
at Chicago Throckmorton Corbett
Dallas Zavala Corbett
at Tennessee TBD TBD

Reich said one of the benefits of having Corbett around (he's leaving next week to get surgery in Los Angeles) is that he can offer some sense of stability and perspective to the young guards, even when he's not on the field, calling that contribution "very significant."

This year has become the opposite of last season. Once center Bradley Bozeman took over in Week 7 last year, the Panthers used the same starting five, and they played every snap together until Corbett and Christensen were injured in the finale in New Orleans. This year, they haven't used the same group more than three games in a row.

"It's just as unfortunate as football is with injuries and just instability; you just try to really shrink the problem and just find that peace in the details of things," Corbett said. "Every single time you go out and you're watching the film, you just try to make sure you're finding that routine every single week and just trying to create stability where you can, because change is tough and especially as an offensive line, it's hard to have that unity when you're rotating and so you just got to make it work."

For his part, Young (who has been sacked 36 times in nine games), said he trusted the guys who will be in front of him this week. He's conditioned to talk about the idea of "next man up," even though the Panthers have gone next man many times already.

"It doesn't affect anything, doesn't affect our mentality," Young said. "My mentality, us as a unit, again, it's next man up, you know. We have to step up again.

"It's tough and that's the tough part about the sport, but we're all professionals, the expectation doesn't change. . . . That's part of the league. You're going to have shuffling around, you're going to always have movement. But you keep the same communication, we all prepare like we're ready to take every snap."

View photos from the Panthers' practice on Wednesday as they prepare to face the Tennessee Titans.

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