The Battle at Right Guard

The Carolina Panthers still have some sorting out to do on the offensive line, particularly at center and right guard. No fewer than six players are competing for those two starting spots.

Incumbent starter Geoff Hangartner is working as the first-team center with Jeremy Bridges at right guard.

However, the Panthers drafted center Ryan Kalil in the second round from Southern Cal (which means he will play at some point soon) and they have a large chunk of guaranteed money invested in Justin Hartwig ($11 million for his first three years).

And then there's Evan Mathis, who started 14 games at right guard last year, and Will Montgomery, who started five games as a rookie in 2006.

But Bridges isn't heading to the bench without a fight.

Bridges, who started 14 games at right tackle last season after being basically picked up off the scrap heap in Week 2 of last year, was expected to move to a reserve role this season, but instead appears to be the early candidate to start at right guard.

"The only good thing about getting whacked pretty good at that position last year is we got to look at a lot of young guys that might not have gotten that much playing time a year ago, and they got that experience, much like we did in 2004 with some of the guys that we went through the season with," coach John Fox said. "So that's the upside."

Still, the Panthers have plenty of work to do to improve their offensive line.

They finished 24th in rushing in 2006 season and allowed 32 sacks and never seemed to control the line of scrimmage. Prior to blowing beating New Orleans in a meaningless season finale, the Panthers failed to score more than 26 points in any game last season. Carolina's points per game dropped from 24.1 in 2005 to 16.8 last season.

With that said, the only addition to the offensive line has been Kalil, who may or may not figure into their plans this year.

Carolina's other three starting line spots appear locked up, with Travelle Wharton at left tackle, Mike Wahle at left guard and Jordan Gross moving back to right tackle.


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