After an up-and-down season in his first year at offensive tackle that included injury, Nate Chandler is ready for a better 2015.
Chandler, a fourth-year player with the Carolina Panthers, is recovering from knee and toe surgeries. And he’s the only remaining starting tackle after the Panthers decided not to bring back left tackle Byron Bell.
“The guys upstairs, they make those decisions,” Chandler said Tuesday at Vance High, where the Panthers donated game-worn pants to Cougars players. “I trust their decisions no matter who it is.
“I made some great friendships, especially with Byron. I know he’s going to do well. Other than that, I’m just focused on next year and focused on what we’re trying to accomplish and it starts in the offseason.”
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Chandler started 11 games for the Panthers at right tackle in 2014 before going on injured reserve with a torn meniscus. Football analytics site Pro Football Focus ranked him 68th among 84 tackles in the NFL last season, allowing seven sacks compared with Bell’s nine.
It was Chandler’s first season at tackle after switching from guard. He played defensive line in his rookie season of 2012.
Carolina signed seven-year veteran Michael Oher this month, and general manager Dave Gettleman has suggested Oher will be the starter at left tackle. That will leave Chandler to compete against Mike Remmers, who played well during the final five games of the season, for the right tackle spot, along with any tackles the Panthers draft.
“I’ve gotten to the point where left or right, I feel comfortable playing the position either tackle or guard,” Chandler said. “So like I said, my main focus is getting healthy and 100 percent and even better than where I was last year.”
Chandler said he recently started running on the treadmill. It’s likely the Panthers will hold him out of veteran minicamp, waiting for training camp to have him practice.
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9