If you were to tell me two years ago that an undrafted defensive tackle named Nate Chandler was going to end up being the Carolina Panthers' starting left offensive tackle in 2014, I would have laughed at you. But as I sit here typing this article, Nate Chandler is impressing coaches in training camp, and seems to be running away with the left tackle spot. The job is currently up for grabs and it is down to Chandler and last year’s starter at right tackle, Byron Bell.
Byron Bell has turned into an enigma for Panthers' fans. He performed valiantly as an undrafted free-agent in 2011, but has not made any improvements since his rookie year outside of a few flashes with solid performances. Many Byron Bell jokes are made around Panthers' nation about Bell’s undeserved starting status, and to the ire of fans, he is still in contention for the blind side position.
Nate Chandler, on the other hand, has respected writers like Bill Voth of The Black & Blue Review predicting that Chandler will win the job before the first pre-season game.
Chandler also has a Hall of Fame endorsement from former Ram, Jackie Slater, whom the Panthers' lineman has spent the last couple summers working with. In addition, Slater had nothing but good things to say about Chan, stating “There’s no doubt in my mind he’s a top left tackle" to ESPN's David Newton. This news should make quite a few Carolina fans excited about the prospect of Chandler starting on the offensive line next season.
I have unfortunately not had the privilege of attending training camp this season and seeing for myself the growth Chandler has made. But, from what I have heard, he is showing all the athletic potential to handle elite opposing defenders. His obvious growth from year to year is making me very optimistic of him reaching the "top left tackle" status that Slater has set for Chandler. Considering just two years ago he was chasing quarterbacks instead of protecting them, his upside should be high. Overall, expect Nate Chandler to win the left tackle job with Byron Bell returning to the right tackle slot.
Projected Starting Offensive-Line:
LT: Nate Chandler
LG: Amini Silatolu
C: Ryan Kalil
RG: Trai Turner
RT: Byron Bell