3. Carolina Panthers (4)
LT: Jordan Gross
LG: Travelle Wharton
C: Ryan Kalil
RG: Mackenzy Bernadeau
RT: *Jeff Otah
Don't laugh. The Panthers went 2-14 last season, but they'll be much better this year and line play has a lot to do with it. Gross and Kalil return from Pro Bowl berths, and Wharton is an elite left guard in protection when healthy. A mammoth run blocker, Otah is the big addition after a season lost to injury. Bernadeau, the question mark, was shuttled between guard spots last year and briefly lost his job, but the Panthers could switch to mauling, 25-year-old "backup" Geoff Schwartz (19 career starts) and probably upgrade the position. G/T Garry Williams (11 starts) is another experienced reserve. Seventh-round value Lee Ziemba fits Carolina's nasty mentality up front.
I was somewhat surprised to see them this high after a pretty dismal 2010 season, though a lot of that had to do with injuries. Losing Otah of course was huge but on top of that Gross and Wharton were both dinged up and played below their normal levels (though Gross still managed a pro-bowl bid). RG is still a concern for me but between Schwartz, Williams, Bernadeau and now Ziemba hopefully someone emerges as a real stud for that last spot. Depth too may be a bit iffy but assuming the line stays relatively healthy I think we see a massive turnaround from a year ago.
Another thing to note is that every NFC South team is in the top 10, which should prove to be a good test for our DLine this year.