If the Carolina Panthers want to get the most out of No. 1 overall pick quarterback Bryce Young in his rookie season, offensive line play is going to be important. Keeping a young signal-caller upright and giving him time to throw can expedite his development, but Young has faced a high amount of pressure through two preseason games.
Young has completed a total of 7 of 12 passes for 56 yards in his first two exhibition games, and has been sacked twice. One of those sacks was allowed by second-year left tackle Ikem Ekwonu, who has had a rough preseason.
Ekwonu has registered a 44.6 overall PFF grade this preseason, and a 17 pass-blocking grade. In 18 pass-block snaps, he has allowed three pressures, and the one sack. Despite the early struggles, Panthers head coach Frank Reich is not concerned about Ekwonu.
"A lot of confidence in Ickey," Reich said, via Panthers Wire. "I have no concerns about him playing winning football and being one of the true anchors to our offensive line. The year he had last year and the training camp that he's had -- I think not only is he gonna be a really good player for us, I think he's gonna be a good leader.
"We have had a couple miscues he's been involved in, but those things will get worked out."
Ekwonu, who was selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft out of NC State, started in all 17 games in his rookie season and allowed six sacks and 27 total pressures on 552 pass block snaps. He finished with a 65.3 PFF grade, and 67.5 pass blocking grade. Just 22 years old, Ekwonu's best playing days are ahead of him, and there's no doubt he showed potential during his rookie season. But his play on the line is going to be very important for Carolina in 2023.