Pro Bowl right guard Trai Turner is the latest in a long list of injuries on the line, having suffered a concussion in the opener against Dallas that already has him listed as out for the Falcons.
The Panthers earlier this week put right tackle Daryl Williams on injured reserve after he injured his right knee for the second time since camp opened.
Add to that Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, who fractured his foot against Dallas. His return will be evaluated on a monthly basis.
Despite the rash of injuries, coach Ron Rivera refused to use the term “position catastrophe” as he did two years ago when several linemen were out at the same time.
“As long as we have guys we have in position like we do with the backups, I think we’re going to be fine,” Rivera said. “And I feel really good about the guys we brought in. I’m really comfortable and confident in them.”
Veteran Chris Clark wasn’t on a roster when the Panthers signed him Wednesday. He suffered ankle injury that ended his 2017 season with Houston.
But with 53 starts between left and right tackle, the 32-year-old could get the start based on experience. With his most recent experience on the left side he could be called on to protect quarterback Cam Newton‘s blind side.
That would move Taylor Moton, who played left tackle in the opener, back to the right side, where he moved when Williams was injured in training camp. Moton began camp competing with Silatolu for the left guard spot.
Having a mobile quarterback like Newton can be an equalizer in terms of his ability to avoid pressure. The 2015 NFL MVP rushed 13 times for 58 yards in the opener.
Protecting Newton also takes time for tackles to adjust to, because he sometimes is unpredictable with his movement in the pocket.
That again makes Clark a more viable option at tackle than Corey Robinson, acquired in a trade with Houston after the final preseason game.
“The biggest thing for guys when they first get involved with what we do and how we do it is understanding the pace that our quarterback works at,” Rivera said. “It’s also important being next to one of our guards that has been in it.
“… We’re working through some things and we’ll see how we do.”
Having Kalil, a five-time Pro Bowl selection at center, directing everything also helps the Panthers.
“It’s like the stabilizing force,” Rivera said. “Tyler Larsen is as good as it gets, too, as a guy that has been able to step in and play for us. But Ryan controls it and handles it very, very well.
“He’s got a great rapport with the other guys.”
Wide receiver/kick returner Damiere Byrd also was listed out with a knee injury. First-round pick D.J. Moore will be first up to fill Byrd’s return duties, but running back Christian McCaffrey also could be used.