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Panthers GM Dave Gettleman confident in offensive line but it needs time

GETTLEMAN
TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman, above, was spoiled in New York with a veteran offensive line. In Carolina, Gettleman believes it’s a matter of time before the Panthers’ line solidifies.

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Dave Gettleman admitted he got a little spoiled when he was with the New York Giants.

The former director of pro personnel had a stout offensive line that had been together for several seasons and knew each other so well they could “roll out of bed in March and play.”

It’s a different story with the Panthers in Gettleman’s first year as general manager. The offensive line, despite having two linemen with Pro Bowls on their resumes, is the biggest question mark on the team.

But Gettleman said it’s just a matter of time before the line solidifies and begins playing as one.

“I think you’ve got five guys that know how to play, now we’ve got to get them to play together,” Gettleman said during practice Wednesday. “The offensive line is the most difficult group to coordinate with. There’s five guys, they’ve got to move as one, think as one. They’ve got to trust each other. They’ve got to know what the other guy’s going to do when blitz and movement starts to happen. So there’s a lot of things going on in there. Do I have confidence they can do it? Yes, without even hesitating.

“I’m up in New York and we have the same offensive line together for five years. It was easy. They just knew each other. We’re not there yet. But these are very competent football players.”

David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O’Hara, Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie were the core of the Giants’ offensive line in the mid-2000s that saw New York win its first Super Bowl in 17 years. The group has eight Pro Bowl appearances among them, which is three more than the Panthers’ starting line.

Left tackle Jordan Gross and center Ryan Kalil are the stalwarts on the line. Byron Bell and Garry Williams are still settling into their positions as right tackle and right guard, respectively, and at left guard, veteran Travelle Wharton is expected to start with last year’s starter Amini Silatolu “still out” for Week 1, he said Wednesday.

It’s unclear what will happen to that position when Silatolu returns from a hamstring injury. Silatolu has only played left guard in his one-year career and Wharton hasn’t played on the right side in his nine years in the league.

“I don’t think there’s any issue,” Gettleman said. “I think the guy you guys are forgetting about is (reserve guard) Chris Scott, who we picked up early in camp and really has done a (heck) of a job. And he’s got the flexibility to move right and left. So there’s flexibility there.”

Quarterback Cam Newton expressed his trust in his offensive line on Wednesday. Newton was sacked three times in the preseason – an average of once every 27 preseason snaps – and went down four times against Seattle in last year’s Week 5 matchup.

This Sunday, however, the Seahawks will be without two of their best defenders in linebacker Bruce Irvin (suspension) and defensive end Chris Clemons (knee). Still, the Panthers’ offensive line is expecting a tough match against one of the best defenses in the league.

“Once we get on the same page we should be fine,” Bell said. “During the preseason you really can’t get that look because some guys play a quarter, but this week we’re all going to play this first game and we’ll get our first test.”

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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