For Taylor Moton on Sunday, no news would be very good news.
Moton, a second-year offensive tackle from Western Michigan, is slated to get his first NFL start at tackle in the 4:25 p.m. season opener at home against the Dallas Cowboys.
Do you know his name and number yet? Moton would be just fine if you don’t. He sure doesn’t want you to learn it Sunday in the most eagerly anticipated Panthers’ home opener in a dozen years. Because if you do, Moton has likely either committed a penalty or allowed a sack.
“Stay low key,” Moton said. “Prepare like it’s just any other week. That’s what I want to do.”
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While Moton is going to start for sure, it’s unclear which side Moton will start on — and may be that way right up until game time.
Moton very possibly is going to inherit the job of protecting Cam Newton’s blind side from Matt Kalil, the left tackle Carolina signed to a five-year, $55-million contract before the 2017 season in hopes of solidifying that extremely important job.
Alas, it is not solidified. Kalil is out for at least eight weeks with a knee injury.
Then again, the vast majority of Moton’s experience — in college and last year — has come on the right side, mostly as a right tackle. The Cowboys’ best pass rusher is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who had 14.5 sacks in 2017 and usually lines up over the offense’s right tackle. So the 6-foot-5, 325-pound Moton may end up at right tackle to try to hold off Lawrence instead, at least some of the time.
The soft-spoken Moton shrugs off the difficulty of playing either side.
“The footwork is different,” Moton said. “The playbook is flipped. Other than that, it’s still football.”
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was surprised by Moton’s demeanor the first time he met him after watching Moton manhandle mid-major opponents for Western Michigan.
“In comes this guy,” Rivera said. “He’s in a suit and he starts talking. And you read his bio and find out he was a finance major or something like that. I thought, ‘Holy cow, I hope he doesn’t start talking numbers because I’m in trouble.’ He’s such a bright young man.”
Moton did earn a college degree, althought it was actually in business. But Rivera’s larger point is valid. Moton obviously is smart and has learned both tackle positions without problem. He knows the guard spots, too.
He has lots of family coming to his first NFL start. He starts ticking them off. “My mom, my dad, my grandmom — well, really, my whole mother’s side is from Gastonia, so lots of them.”
When then-Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman drafted Moton in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft, Gettleman chortled: “Moton was a heck of a pick at the bottom of the second round. He’s a big ol’ tough hog molly who’s smarter than this entire room.”
Moton played in all 16 Panthers games as a rookie. He mostly got snaps on special teams or else coming in as a sixth offensive linemen in short-yardage situations.
This will be much different. Barring injury, Moton will likely play every offensive snap.
Not that you’d notice. He hopes.