Before the Carolina Panthers first training camp practice, guard Trai Turner met with the media. He was asked after making the Pro Bowl in his second season what he hopes to achieve, "Being one of those players at the peak of their position," Turner said. "Being one of the best guards in the NFL."
The former third round pick is certainly on his way to achieving that goal.
Turner will be 23 entering the 2016 season and already has a ton of experience with 30 starts at guard including five starts in the postseason. This past season was his first full season a starter and he played a major role in the offensive line's improvement.
While Turner may not be considered the best at this point, he has received plenty of recognition for his play. He was recently ranked as the second best guard in the NFL by SI.com's Chris Burke, who wrote:
The Panthers had their issues on the edges last season, right up through their Super Bowl loss to Denver, but they were sensational up the middle. (Turner’s counterpart at guard, Andrew Norwell, did not miss this list by much and Ryan Kalil landed at No. 3 on our countdown of the NFL’s best centers.) Turner’s potent run blocking is what drew Carolina to him initially, when it swiped him at No. 92 overall in the 2014 draft. After a solid rookie season, Turner was an anchor in that facet during the Panthers’ 2015 campaign, when they rushed for a combined 2,282 yards. Turner also found his footing as a pass blocker last year. He was hit with seven penalties (plus four false starts), which was a minor blemish on a breakthrough season.
While talent certainly plays a major factor for players, and there is no denying Turner has tremendous amounts of talent, the fact that he landed with the Carolina Panthers has helped him skyrocket as quickly as he has. The Panthers lean heavily on the run, finishing with the second most rushing yards last year, plays right into Turner's strengths. As Burke notes this was something that stood out to the team when they were evaluating him and he has not disappointed in this category.
It isn't always easy to identify the best offensive linemen because these are the guys in the trenches. Typically, the less attention they get, the better because this usually means they aren't making many mistakes, like giving up sacks or drawing penalties.
Trai Turner has lofty goals entering 2016 however with how much experience he has at only 23 years of age and the offense he plays in, he is in excellent position to become the best guard in the NFL in 2016.