Panthers retain key offensive line, special teams coaches

Chris Tabor, James Campen

CHARLOTTE — The Panthers held onto some key parts of last year's coaching staff as new head coach Frank Reich puts together his first staff.

The team retained offensive line coach James Campen, assistant offensive line coach Robert Kugler, and special teams coach Chris Tabor.

The Panthers made significant strides up front last year, with the line going from being a question mark to a team strength.

Part of that had to do with drafting left tackle Ikem Ekwonu in the first round and investing free agent money in guard Austin Corbett and center Bradley Bozeman, and part of that was having Campen there to guide a still-young group.

Robert Kugler, James Campen

And after using 13 different combinations of starting lineups in 2021, they used only two last year. Production followed with that stability, as they went from allowing 52 sacks in 2021 to 36 last year.

They also ran well, including setting a franchise record with 320 yards on the ground against the Lions.

Campen, the former Saints and Packers lineman and longtime Packers assistant (a combined 27 years of playing and coaching experience), came to the team with a reputation for developing mid-round picks. The Packers had seven Pro Bowl offensive linemen during Campen's time there, despite not always investing the most resources on that area.

Chris Tabor

Similar to the progress from the offensive line, the Panthers took a huge step on special teams in Tabor's first year.

They finished fourth in the league in Rick Gosselin's annual special teams rankings, the highest they have ranked in any season since 2003. They were 28th in those rankings in 2021.

Despite losing kicker Zane Gonzalez to a preseason injury, they found kicker Eddy Piñeiro, and he became one of the league's most consistent kickers. Along with adding former All-Decade punter Johnny Hekker to go with veteran long snapper JJ Jansen (who broke the franchise's all-time record for games played), the Panthers grew into a stable unit last year.

They also added Jonathan Cooley as secondary/cornerbacks coach.

Cooley worked with Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero when he was with the Rams.

Last season, he was defensive backs coach in Los Angeles.

View photos of Ekwonu from his 2022 season debut with the Panthers as he became the first Panthers rookie to play 100 percent of the offensive snaps.

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