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Monday, September 29, 2008
Panthers have to prepare to play without Gross

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

It appears as if Jordan Gross' streak of 91 straight starts (every game of his career) is in serious jeopardy.

Gross

The Carolina left tackle could miss at least a couple of weeks after suffering a concussion and losing consciousness against Atlanta. That's a huge blow for the Panthers because Gross is their best offensive lineman and right tackle Jeff Otah also has a sprained ankle.

Otah said after the game he didn't think his injury is serious, but we won't know for sure until the Panthers return to practice Wednesday. But the Panthers have to begin preparing to play without Gross and that's going to cause a shake-up on the offensive line.

Left guard Travelle Wharton switched over to left tackle after Gross was injured and Geoff Hangartner entered the game at left guard. Wharton was a starter at left tackle last year, but the Panthers moved Wharton inside because they believe he's a better fit at guard.

Wharton was far from an elite left tackle and often struggled against premier pass rushers. They moved Gross over from the right side and drafted Otah in a pair of moves that gave them first-round draft choices at both tackle spots.

There will be a drop-off with Wharton at left tackle, but he's really the only option the Panthers have. Reserve Jeremy Bridges isn't known as a strong pass blocker and is best suited to play right tackle or guard. Frank Omiyale is the only other tackle on the roster and he's a project without much game experience.