CHARLOTTE — Because they're behemoths who usually don't say much, offensive linemen get a bum rap. But they can be some of the smartest guys in the room.
Take Taylor Moton, for example.
Before he became a 2017 second-round pick, the 6-foot-5, 325-pounder had already earned a degree in accounting at Western Michigan and had started working toward a master's in business.
Smarts like those can be a big help in Moton's chosen profession. They're especially handy for his current role, which he described as "just bouncing around, for the most part."
"You've got to learn how to understand concepts," Moton continued. "You have to memorize certain looks, but if you understand the concept of what the whole offensive line's doing, it makes it easier for me to just plug in wherever I'm going. I just know the more you can do in this profession, especially on the offensive line, the better."
When Jacksonville made Andrew Norwell the league's highest-paid guard, many assumed Moton would just slide into the vacancy. That wasn't the Panthers' plan, though. They targeted a number of interior linemen in the draft who could fill their “question mark at left guard.” If they had landed one, Moton most likely would have stayed at swing tackle in 2018. But since the board didn't fall the Panthers' way, Moton has a golden opportunity to take over Norwell's spot.
"It is different playing guard, for sure," Moton said. "I know I've had more experience playing tackle, especially playing mostly tackle last year. But I don't like to think I'm naturally better at one or the other. I think naturally I'm just an offensive lineman.
"Through this whole offseason I've been doing so much of both, I feel like I can do either one. I think the OTA practices coming up will be good for me getting to go against some of the best defensive tackles in the league."
And that's really the point of a lot of this. Veteran Amini Silatolu may be getting the bulk of first-team left guard reps, but the position battle is far from over. You can almost say it hasn't even begun. We'll learn a little more when the offense and defense finally get to line up against each other beginning next week and continuing through mandatory veteran minicamp in mid-June. But it's still nearly impossible to judge linemen until they put pads on, and that won't happen until training camp.
So for now, Moton will continue to put his off-the-field education on hold because there's more pressing business to tend to.
"I think at some point down the line I want to get a master's. May work toward a CPA," he said. "I haven't really given it much thought cause really all I've been thinking about is doing what I can to be successful in football.
"(The left guard opening) is definitely an opportunity for me. That's why I'm doing everything I can to give myself the best shot."