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Charlotte native named Panthers starting LT

Ikem Ekwonu has been named the Panthers' starting left tackle. The Charlotte native was picked No. 6 overall out of NC State in the 2022 draft.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers will be moving forward with rookie Ikem Ekwonu as the starting left tackle, head coach Matt Rhule said Tuesday. 

Ekwonu has proven himself ready to be the team's starting tackle after splitting reps during training camp and the first preseason game at Washington. Rhule made the announcement after Tuesday's joint practice with the New England Patriots, when Ekwonu took first-team reps ahead of Brady Christensen. 

"We wanted Ickey to play, put it on tape in a game before we put him with the 1's," Rhule said. "We wanted him to go in a game and play and then sort of earn it with his play. He played well in the game." 

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The Charlotte native has been penciled in by many to be Carolina's starting left tackle after being drafted No. 6 overall out of NC State. He'll now have the opportunity to hold that job moving forward. 

What isn't clear is who he'll be blocking for against Cleveland in the season opener. Rhule complimented Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold after the preseason opener at Washington. 

"Both guys, I have to really watch the tape to see exactly what they did," Rhule said after the 23-21 victory. "But I thought they were both in command. We made the right checks, so I was pleased."

Both quarterbacks will continue to split first-team reps before Friday's game at New England. 

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