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Carolina Panthers

Steady, quiet Taylor Moton leads line "in his own way"

Taylor Moton

CHARLOTTE – The Panthers are a young team all-around in terms of age and experience playing together. Carolina's roster was crafted around a youthful core and a few new additions from free agency, and that's been especially true along the offensive line.

Up front, the Panthers brought in 22-year-old rookie left tackle Ikem Ekwonu, to go with second-year left guard Brady Christensen, and new-to-here free agents in center Bradley Bozeman and right guard Austin Corbett.

So the mainstay at right tackle, Taylor Moton, had to play an essential role in getting them all working together, and quickly.

As the Panthers saw so many changes at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver this season, the blockers up front have created chemistry and consistency. Teammates and coaches agree much of that tone has been set by Moton.

Taylor Moton

"T-Mo's an experienced guy, number one; he's a hard worker," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. "He's fought through a lot of things this year to be able to play … hats off to T-Mo; he's a big team guy. He's been around. He blocks his man – that's where it starts with me.

"You know you have good tackles if you don't have to talk about them too much. I love both of our guys out there on the edges, and T-Mo's a veteran guy who's been around the block. He's craving an opportunity to win, and he does everything we ask him to do. We like to put them up front, and he's a good human being. I'm glad we're together."

The starting offensive line has remained intact since Bozeman replaced center Pat Elflein (who would need season-ending surgery). Since then, they've continued to build a dominant unit blocking the way to franchise records and a crushing run game.

"Ultimately, having chemistry up front helps a lot," Moton said. "I think being able to have the same O-line week in and week out is helping more and more. I love the guys I'm playing with, and I love how we just continue to figure out how to get better."

Christensen said Moton might fly under the radar to those on the outside because he isn't the most "rowdy" player in the locker room (he's quiet, and is happy to let others talk), but his leadership shows in how he sets an example on and off the field.

The 28-year-old Moton has started every game at right tackle since winning the job in 2018, and he has played 100 percent of the offensive snaps this season. He hasn't missed a game this season, even as he has popped up on the injury report with knee and elbow issues throughout the year, and has reached the point where he gets veteran rest days because he's earned them.

"It's important that I make it to Sunday (as) the best version of myself and do everything I can to be out there for the guys," Moton said. "Because I love the guys in the room, love getting to play the sport I grew up loving to play, and ultimately, it's doing everything I can to be on top of my recovery so that I'm as healthy as I can be when my name's called."

Christensen called Moton "one of the toughest guys I've ever met in my life," and Ekwonu said he strives to have Moton's level of consistency in the league.

"It sets the standard a little bit," Ekwonu said. "You've got to play through some things; you've got to put your body on the line at this position. He's definitely a guy that does that. He's going to put his body on the line for the rest of the team, be a little bit selfless, so (it's) definitely inspiring. That'd be something that I strive to be."

Ekwonu said Moton has always been proactive with his development on the field, going out of his way at practice to give him tips and pointers, especially in pass protection.

The offensive line often refers to their teammates as "family," and Christensen said Moton is like the dad in the room. He'll make announcements in team meetings, keep them "in line" if something is off in the locker room, and often work to raise morale across the team.

Recall the ski mask story from last week, when the offensive line came into team meetings wearing black ski masks – gifted by Moton – after a bad game in Pittsburgh. They wanted to change the attitude going into the next game against Detroit, and the masks were a tangible reminder.

The end result was a franchise-best 320 yards rushing and 570 yards of offense, and the offensive line liked them.

"(It's) one more thing that kind of just brings us all together," Ekwonu said. "He went out and bought the ski masks for us, showing that camaraderie, showing that we're really a brotherhood here. I think that was really cool. I think it sent the right message."

Taylor Moton

Moton started laying the groundwork for the offensive line's chemistry early, as he invites every lineman to his home weekly for Thursday evening dinner. He caters meals, everything from barbecue to fried rice, for everyone from the starters to those on the practice squad. 

"I feel like it's kind of like (an) underrated reason we flock toward T-Mo a little bit," Ekwonu said. "He's putting his money, time, and house on the line for us, trying to bring us closer together. That's something off the field that shows his leadership a little bit." 

Ekwonu said he felt like he was welcomed with open arms from the beginning, and the off-field chemistry has continued to manifest in improvements on the field.

Moton may not be the flashiest leader on the roster, but he has been a critical one. And Christensen wanted to be sure the veteran right tackle received his appreciation. 

"I think because he's not a super vocal guy or a rowdy guy; even on game day, he's not super rowdy, and I respect that it's just who he is," Christensen said. "But that doesn't diminish the fact that he is one of our best leaders on our team. You don't have to be super vocal, or super rowdy, or like a motivational guy to be a great leader. That's what he is. He does it in his own way, and it's amazing."

View photos from Wednesday's practice as the Panthers get ready to travel to Tampa Bay this weekend.

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