Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is all about his players making the decisions for him this summer. And by that, he wants them to earn it.
He repeated that sentiment following Wednesday’s training camp practice, when asked about the development of 2022 first-round selection Ikem Ekwonu. Rhule noted that despite the promise his new gifted offensive tackle has, he still has to learn how to become a pro.
“To me, Ickey’s a rookie,” Rhule said. “He’s gotta earn everything he gets and he’s got a long way to go. He does some things really well naturally. He’s unbelievably powerful and talented. But there’s a lot to this game. And I see T-Mo [Taylor Moton] standing back there like, there’s a lot to this game. There’s a lot of nuances and techniques and all those things. He has a long way to go. He’ll get there. But every day, he’s gotta work.”
Rhule, of course, doesn’t mean Ekwonu has been a disappointment out of the gate. In fact, he’s been anything but.
He will, though, have to acclimate to the NFL level of play—something every rookie must endure at this stage. As he does, he’ll have Brady Christensen—who did the very same in 2021—in his way on the blindside.
And like Rhule’s already said, Ekwonu—just like quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Matt Corral—won’t be handed his keep. He’ll have to grab it.