The Carolina Panthers lost a major piece to their offense after the 2013 season when former Pro Bowl left tackle Jordan Gross retired. The team tried to replace him with Byron Bell in 2014; however, he struggled at the position and the offense in turn struggled. The Panthers' quarterbacks, Cam Newton and Derek Anderson, were sacked 42 times during that season.
The front office knew they had to address the position last offseason however the options were limited for a starting left tackle, both in free agency as well as the NFL Draft, and the team took a gamble on Michael Oher. That gamble paid off as Oher started every game at left tackle and the team's quarterbacks were only sacked 33 times.
After this past regular season, GM Dave Gettleman said that signing Michael Oher was his best move, according to ESPN's David Newton. The Panthers' GM said, “Michael has been a huge [addition] for us and settled us down."
The Panthers' offensive line is one that has evolved since halfway through the 2014 season with the team starting two rookie guards in Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner. These two really showed consistency last year and solidified the interior of the offensive line.
The front office also signed Mike Remmers off the Rams' practice squad midway through the 2014 season to play right tackle, who only got an opportunity after Nate Chandler suffered a season ending injury and Amini Silatolu wasn't healthy enough to start. Remmers has gone on to start every game for the Panthers at right tackle since entering the lineup.
However in 2014, it was clear the offensive line still wasn't where it needed to be and this was due in part to the play at left tackle. At this time last year, there wasn't a great deal of confidence in Oher based on his play the past few seasons. After Oher bounced between right and left tackle with the Baltimore Ravens, he left in free agency before the 2014 season and signed a four-year deal with the Tennessee Titans.
Oher didn't last long in Tennessee though and the team cut him after an injury filled first season with the team. For the Panthers to essentially put all their eggs in one basket with Oher was risky but he proved last year he can handle the job.
The Panthers now enter 2016 not having to really worry about the left tackle position for the first time in three years and this should be a big boost for the entire offense as they prepare for the upcoming season.