Carolina’s tight-knit offensive line has to replace one of its most highly regarded members. Andrew Norwell, the relentless left guard who worked his way from undrafted free agent to All-Pro, is now a Jacksonville Jaguar and one of the top paid interior O-linemen in the league.
But the other four starters are back, including five-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil, who has said the 2018 season will be his last.
1) Who replaces Norwell?
This is the obvious question as it pertains to the offensive line, and one that will be answered when the position battle truly commences at training camp. The Panthers have options. Taylor Moton, who can play guard or tackle, was taken in the second round of the 2017 draft for a reason. Amini Silatolu has started 31 games for Carolina. Tyler Larsen proved his worth filling in at center. And free agent addition Jeremiah Sirles started 14 games at left guard for the Vikings over the past two seasons.
Once the pads start popping we’ll get a better sense of Carolina’s plans for that left guard spot.
2) Will Matt Kalil raise his level of play?
After signing a lucrative contract in free agency, expectations for Kalil were understandably high entering the 2017 season. His play was up and down, especially early on, but there is a lot of optimism surrounding the gifted left tackle as he readies for his second year in Carolina. His health is the biggest reason why.
“I used to have to do what I could to survive,” explained Kalil, who was still working his way back from hip surgery last spring. “Now it's to the point where physically nothing's holding me back.
“So I have a chance to excel and work on the things I want to work on rather than doing maintenance 24/7 and just trying to survive out there.”
3) Can Daryl Williams build on his breakthrough year?
The fourth-round pick in 2015 started every game at right tackle last season and made a name for himself. Williams was a second-team AP All-Pro selection and he ranked third among offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus. Now he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract. A big pay day looks to be in the cards if he can put together another solid campaign.