Ron Rivera: Panthers tackle Matt Kalil must find a ‘comfort zone’ with Cam Newton

Ron Rivera: Panthers tackle Matt Kalil must find a ‘comfort zone’ with Cam Newton

CHARLOTTE, NC (Jourdan Rodrigue/The Charlotte Observer) - After a strong season debut in which quarterback Cam Newton barely encountered contact and didn't take a sack, Carolina's offensive line gave up six sacks and seven quarterback hurries on Sunday to Buffalo's athletic pass rush.

A portion of this fell squarely upon the shoulders of the Panthers' new left tackle, Matt Kalil, who admitted to some mistakes after the game.

After head coach Ron Rivera had a chance to watch the game film, he allowed that some of those mistakes are likely a direct result of the left tackle and his quarterback simply not being used to each other.

"Unfortunately, there are still a couple of things that Matt still has to get used to in terms of protections, the way we do protections," said Rivera on Monday afternoon. "(He needs to) get into a little bit more of a comfort zone in his understanding and feel for Cam."

The two hardly had the opportunity to do so this offseason and preseason, since Newton was limited while he recovered from shoulder surgery. In fact, Newton threw just two passes in the preseason.

"You know, Cam tends to take a little bit of a deeper drop at times, and Matt has to have a sense and feel for those drops," said Rivera. "I think as we play more and more together as that group of starters, that's how you develop the familiarity.

"We're going through that process now that you would have loved to have gone through during training camp."

The "other" Kalil, veteran center Ryan, missed Sunday's game with neck soreness. Rivera said Kalil "woke up with a crick in his neck" and tried to loosen it up before the game but could not. He added that Kalil told him he'd be able to play if the team found itself in an emergency situation.

"So rather than risk it – we have a tremendous amount of confidence in Tyler (Larsen) – we went ahead and started Tyler," said Rivera, referring to his backup center.