Panthers rookie report: Ikem Ekwonu is the franchise’s long-awaited left-back

Panthers left tackle Ikem Ekwonu came to the NFL with innate run blocking skills, as evidenced by all those maple syrup bottles in Raleigh and confirmed by veteran guard Austin Corbett early in Ekwonu’s rookie season.

“He’s had a couple of those moments where he – he doesn’t even realize it, really. I’m just stepping up to the second level – his speed and how fast he can shut down that distance to get a linebacker where he wants him,” Corbett said. “His shutting speed that he has in the second level is something – like, OK, it must be nice.It would be great to have it.

Ekwonu was the pancake king at NC State, where the Wolfpack staff rewarded offensive linemen who had blocks of pancakes with bottles of syrup. And while Ekwonu’s speed (he ran his 40 combine in under five seconds) and aggression are well suited to the Panthers’ fast downhill offense, it was his development as a pass blocker that was most impressive.

Checking out the Panthers’ other draft picks nearly three-quarters into the season, there isn’t much to report on the guys shortlisted after Ekwonu, the No. 6 pick. But as Ekwonu keeps his quarterback clean over the weeks, it seems that the Panthers found the franchise’s left tackle in the 6-4, 320-pounder at Charlotte’s Providence Day School.

“You could see early on how much potential it had. He was just slowly getting more comfortable in the NFL. You saw that every week,” said Brady Christensen, the left guard who lines up next to Ekwonu on the court and sits next to him in offensive line meetings.

Panthers OT rookie Ikem Ekwonu has not conceded a sack since Week 2.

Dealing with the franchise.

— PFF CAR Panthers (@PFF_Panthers) November 28, 2022

“He’s getting more comfortable, more confident,” Christensen continued. “It was a pleasure to watch.”

Ekwonu had a tough charge in Week 1 against Cleveland’s Myles Garrett, one of the league’s top edge rushers. Midway through the third quarter of the Browns’ 26-24 victory, Garrett outran Ekwonu twice on a rushing run to sack Baker Mayfield on back-to-back plays.

Ekwonu didn’t get much help in the second from tight end Tommy Tremble, who shoved Garrett as he passed him, giving him momentum instead of chipping him.

In a loss to the Giants the following week, Ekwonu was beaten on a blitz by safety Julian Love, whose third sack by Mayfield late in the fourth quarter was one of the biggest plays in New York’s 19-16 win.

Love’s sack came on the Panthers’ final offensive play against the Giants. In 10 games since then, Ekwonu has had 594 consecutive snaps without giving up a sack.

“If you go against Myles Garrett, you can go against anyone. He’s the best in the league, without a doubt,” Christensen said. “This is the first match where (you think), if I pass this one, I can play against anyone. I think it gave him a lot of confidence, for sure.

Ekwonu said his growth as a pass blocker since Week 2 has been two-fold. He said he’s gotten better at passing pass rushers who come with twists and turns, a technique that requires offensive linemen to move their feet to make sure everyone is accounted for as they switch responsibilities, not unlike defensive backs. basketballs that light up a screen.

Ekwonu said he also had to reduce his aggression when blocking passes, which took some getting used to for a player known for his mauling style in college.

“Guys (in the NFL) are nervous, faster. So you don’t want to just throw everything you’ve got out there,” Ekwonu said recently. “You want to be patient and be a little finer as a player. my nature as a run blocker”.

Ekwonu, a first-team All-American as a senior at NC State, is still learning as he goes. He is tied with Eagles guard Landon Dickerson as the most penalized player in the league, with 10 flags in 12 games. But he was also one of the highest-rated offensive linemen among this year’s rookies, according to Pro Football Focus.

“It’s nice to get that accolade, but I feel like it’s still a credit to the offensive line as a whole,” Ekwonu said. “It’s not a position of one, it’s a position of five. If one of us is doing well, it means we are all doing great. I definitely want to give a shout out to those guys.

Corbett said having his 22-year-old teammate learn from his early mistakes without letting them affect his confidence was crucial.

“He keeps establishing himself week after week, and really just hones his craft,” Corbett said. “As athletic as he is, he’s going to move differently just because he’s able to. So she’s able to match that with her strength. When he can put his feet on the ground, it’s impressive.”

The Panthers have gone through a different starter at left tackle every year in the nine seasons since three-time Pro Bowler Jordan Gross retired. But Ekwonu looks like the real deal.

Christensen called Ekwonu a “low-key, funny guy”, with a sarcastic wit. But because he’s a rookie, Ekwonu takes some pain from older linemen, especially when a Charlotte TV station is interviewing him for what Christensen called a “hometown hero” story.

Ekwonu said it’s good to have his family close by and he doesn’t have to worry that his Nigerian-born parents are too hard on him if he loses a block or job.

“I really don’t have too many critics because they might not know enough about the game to criticize me,” he said with a smile. “But I definitely have a lot of cheerleaders, though. It’s something I appreciate.

This last category grows together with Ekwonu’s game.

A quick look at how the other four Panthers rookies have performed (seventh-round pick Kalon Barnes was cut in August and is on the Dolphins’ practice squad):

QB Matt Corral

Playing Time: Placed on injured reserve Aug. To see also : Lawyers want Republicans to remove obscene photos of ex-CEOs. 23.

Outlook: Matt Corral didn’t get many chances to prove himself in retirement before picking up a season-ending foot injury in his second preseason game at New England. Corral, who underwent surgery for a Lisfranc tear, has been around the stadium for much of the season. But the Panthers don’t really know what they have in the former Ole Miss quarterback, who they traded to enter the third round. Because of this, Corral could compete with a higher drafted quarterback next year.

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LB Brandon Smith

Playing Time: Brandon Smith had 5.8% of defensive snaps and 58. On the same subject : South Alabama cheerleading in UCA College Nationals for the first time.8% of special teams snaps (all playing time stats are from Pro Football Reference).

Outlook: In his longest play, Smith had three tackles after starting linebacker Cory Littleton injured his ankle against the Ravens. The Panthers drew Smith’s trait more on his skill set than his college production at Penn State, and interim head coach Steve Wilks said he told Smith he was “too talented” not to make more plays.

Loving Barno (Bob Donnan / USA Today)

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DE Amare Barno

Playing Time: Amare Barno had 7.1% of defensive snaps and 27. To see also : Renowned cheerleading coach named in Rockstar Cheer lawsuit suspended.3% of special teams snaps.

Outlook: Like Smith, the 6-6, 245-pound Barno has a bizarre combination of size and speed. The former Virginia Tech champ passed his 40 combine in 4.36 seconds, the fastest time by a defensive lineman since 2003. Barno has a sack in limited play and had a good athletic play in Baltimore to chase running back Justice Hill for a loss. Barno needs to add muscle to his lean frame if he is to be more than just a situational passer.

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OL Cade Mays

Playing Time: Mays had 1.9% offensive snaps and 14.1% special teams snaps.

Outlook: Mays appeared to be headed for a redshirt season until offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo began using him as a defender in short-throw situations. The 6-6, 325-pound Mays and veteran tackle Cam Erving were used as extra blockers as the Panthers shifted to a faster physical offense under Wilks. If the Panthers re-sign center Bradley Bozeman, they will return their offensive line intact next season. But Mays should be a backup and an occasional fullback.

(Top photo by Ikem Ekwonu: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Do jaguars live in NC?

Are there leopards in NC? So the native big cat that once roamed the fields and forests of North Carolina is no more. There is no “remnant” population of big cats that has somehow survived in the mountains or swamps undetected for 100 years, it just isn’t genetically possible.

Do Black Panthers Live in NC? “Panther” is another term for the puma Felis concolor couguar but more recently as Puma concolor couguar, the cautious and intelligent Carolina panther, once prevalent in North Carolina, is now considered extinct in the wild by most zoologists despite the consistent rumors of sightings and species revival.

Were there ever panthers in North Carolina?

By 1900, the eastern cougar is thought to have been extirpated throughout North Carolina. The last recorded sighting of a Carolina Panther was one killed in Maine in 1938.

Were there black panthers in NC? There were no photographs or other verifiable evidence to support these reports. Although very rare, jaguars, leopards, jaguarundis, and even bobcats may have black coats, but a melanistic (black) puma has never been documented in North America.

How many panthers are left in the United States?

During the 1970s, only about 20-30 Florida panthers remained in the wild. Today there are just over 200 left in the wild. They are found in southern Florida in swamps such as Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.

How many Florida Panthers are left in 2022? Panthers are listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act and it is illegal to harm or harass them in any way. There are approximately 120-230 adult panthers in the population.

Are there any panthers left in the US? The Florida panther’s current status is listed as endangered. During the 1970s, only about 20-30 Florida panthers remained in the wild. Today there are just over 200 left in the wild. They are found in southern Florida in swamps such as Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.

Are there still Florida panthers? An endangered species is an endangered animal or plant. It is illegal to harm or harass an endangered species in any way. There are an estimated 120-230 adult panthers in Florida.

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