When the Carolina Panthers selected Ikem Ekwonu with the sixth overall selection in the 2022 draft, they were confident they had found an anchor for their offensive line.
Ekwonu is proving to be a fast study. After standing out in Tuesday's joint practice with the New England Patriots, coach Matt Rhule said the team is "moving forward" with Ekwonu as the first-team left tackle.
Rhule said Ekwonu also played well during Saturday's 23-21 preseason victory over the Washington Commanders.
"We wanted him to go in a game and play, and then earn with his play," Rhule said. "He played well in the game, so these are valuable reps for him."
Ekwonu could feel things coming together and he was pleased to take another step forward against the Patriots in the session at Foxborough, Mass.
"It feels like I've finally been able to earn my way into that spot," Ekwonu said after the practice. "I look forward to continuing in that role and doing the best I can to keep that spot."
Ekwonu beat out Brady Christensen for the position. Christensen will now compete for the starting left guard spot with Michael Jordan.
The Panthers have yet to announce a starting quarterback but Baker Mayfield holds the edge over San Darnold. Mayfield, recently acquired from the Cleveland Browns, was the starting quarterback of Tuesday's practice session.
"Baker is learning a lot of what we're doing," Rhule said. "Every day is a good day for him in terms of learning."
Darnold is expected to be the opening quarterback when the Panthers and Patriots again hold another joint practice session on Wednesday. The clubs also play each other in a preseason game on Friday.
--Field Level Media