Carolina Panthers name Ikem Ekwonu starting left tackle over Brady Christensen

ByDavid Newton via ESPN logo
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
ESPN

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Carolina Panthers aren't ready to name a starting quarterback, but they are ready to move forward with first-round draft pick Ikem Ekwonu as their starting left tackle.

Ekwonu, the sixth overall pick in the 2022 draft out of North Carolina State, opened Tuesday's joint practice against New England as the starter over 2021 third-round pick Brady Christensen. According to coach Matt Rhule, "That's where we are moving forward."

Christensen started the preseason opener at Washington and had been the starter since camp opened. He will compete with Michael Jordan for the left guard spot.

"We wanted Ickey to play and put him on tape in a game before we put him with the 1s ... and then earn with his play," Rhule said. "He played well in the game, so these were valuable reps for him."

Baker Mayfield began the first of two joint practices against the Patriots with the first-team offense as he continues to battle Sam Darnold for the starting quarterback job.

The first pick of the 2018 draft had a rough day, completing only one of his first six pass attempts in one-on-one drills between the receivers and cornerbacks. He was 3-for-10 in a two-minute drill toward the end of practice, but kept the drive alive with a big pass to running back Christian McCaffrey inside the New England 5-yard line.

Mayfield also completed a touchdown pass of more than 45 yards to wide receiver DJ Moore and continued to push the ball downfield, which his receivers love.

Rhule continued to find good in Mayfield's game.

"Baker is learning a lot of what we're doing,'' he said. "Every day is a good day for him in terms of learning.''

Darnold also struggled some with the second team. He had a pass tipped and intercepted near the goal line toward the end of his two-minute drill.

He is expected to open with the first team in Wednesday's joint practice.

Rhule expects to name a starter sometime after Friday's preseason game against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, and signs continue to point toward Mayfield getting the job.

"He's smart," wide receiver Robbie Anderson said. "He's picked up the offense. I like his energy a lot. I like that a lot about him, like his leadership, his confidence."

When asked if he sensed Mayfield was winning the competition, Anderson said, "They're fighting. I can't really say [who will win the job]. I just go with the flow."