|OL Schwartz looks to build on last year's success|
|Written by Steve Reed|
|Monday, 07 June 2010 17:07|
CHARLOTTE – Sometimes change can be good, especially when it means going from backup to a potential starter.|
That’s one of the reasons second-year offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz is excited the Carolina Panthers are giving him a look at right guard, even though it’s a position he’s not all that familiar with.
The odds-on favorite to win the job is still Mackenzy Bernadeau, while Duke Robinson could also figure into the mix. But Schwartz did run some with the first team offense at right guard at the start of OTAs with Bernadeau recovering from a strained pectoral muscle. He’s since moved back to his more familiar right tackle position, running with the first team while Jeff Otah sits out team drills.
But just the fact that the Panthers gave him a look is good news for the former seventh-round draft pick.
“I’m just excited to get a chance to start,” Schwartz said. “I don’t mind guard. It’s a little different than tackle, but it’s not anything I can’t get used to. I’m excited for the opportunity, for sure.”
At 6-foot-6 and 331 pounds, Schwartz’s build fits that of an offensive tackle.
“There are some teams with big guys,” Schwartz said. “It’s not common, but it’s not unheard of. If I’m able to play guard that is even better for me because it makes me more valuable.”
You can’t blame the Panthers for looking for ways to get Schwartz on the field.
After Otah went down with a knee injury late last season, Schwartz started three games at right tackle with impressive results. During that span, the Panthers went 3-0 and averaged 183 yards per game on the ground and scored four rushing touchdowns. He also helped pave the way for his old University of Oregon teammate Jonathan Stewart to rush for a team-record 206 yards against the New York Giants in a 41-9 rout.
In addition, quarterback Matt Moore threw seven touchdown passes in the final three games while being sacked only five times.
Schwartz downplayed his own contributions, simply saying he’s happy the team won.
But he admitted it was an important step in his career.
“I think it proved that I’m not just a practice player, which is good,” Schwartz said. “I always felt like if I had the opportunity, I could prove it on the field and that gave me the opportunity to show people.”
He certainly impressed his teammates.
“Schwartz, in the short span he’s got to play, he’s really proven himself to be a great utility guy for this football team,” said center Ryan Kalil said. “I think he knows it, we all know it, and the coaches obviously know it.
"He’s somebody who plays a huge, integral part of this offense. Having a guy you can plug in at any spot, he can plug in at guard, tackle on both sides, people take that for granted. Having guys like that is an extreme value to the organization, and we have that in Schwartz and a couple other guys.”
In all likelihood Schwartz will open the season on the bench, backing up at both tackle and guard.
But players like that have proven extremely valuable for the Panthers in the past. And, guys like Geoff Hangartner and Frank Omiyale have parlayed that type of a role in Carolina into big-money contracts and starting jobs with other teams once they hit the free agent market.
He also gives the Panthers some proven depth on the offensive line, something they lacked last season.
“That was one of the things, we were hoping everything goes right and we don’t have to plug anyone in,” Kalil said of last year’s offensive line depth. “Fortunately for us though, when that time happened, we didn’t miss a beat with these guys. We actually did really well against some really good football teams. And so hats off to them, and the personnel, the GM and the coaches who got those guys up.”