Taylor Moton, Panthers’ Ironman set to play in 100th consecutive game vs. Saints
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Pantherswill roll out a different offensive line Monday night, with Brady Christensen joining fellow starting guard Austin Corbett on the team’s injured list.
At least one rookie will be in the lineup up front. But there will be one constant, as there has been the past five seasons: Taylor Moton will start at right tackle. And if history is any guide, he’ll be in there for every snap.
Moton will play in his 100th consecutive game Monday against the New Orleans Saints while making his 84th consecutive start. According to Pro Football Reference, Moton is the only NFL player to play 100 percent of the offensive snaps from 2020 through 2022.
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Since the Panthers drafted Moton in the second round in 2017, the former Western Michigan lineman has been as reliable as the sunrise.
“There’s a lot of people growing up,” Moton said, “that helped me understand the importance of being available.”
That list included several youth coaches and his parents Sonya Gunnings-Moton and Delbert Husband, a retired command sergeant major in the Army National Guard who served in Iraq.
“My dad played a big role in making sure I stayed in a straight and narrow path and did whatever I had to do to get my job done,” Moton said.
Once he arrived in Charlotte, Moton took a lot of his cues from former center Ryan Kalil, who battled through several injuries late in his career.
“He was the captain back when I got here. I think being around him, he taught me what leadership is, how to handle adversity and stuff like that,” Moton said. “I learned a lot from him when I first got in the league.”
Moton served as a “jumbo tight end” as a rookie and played every game on special teams. He was part of the blocking wedge on kickoffs, a formation that’s been outlawed as the league has sought to make the play safer.
Moton became a starter in 2018 and began the year at left tackle in place of the injured Matt Kalil. After two starts on the left side, Moton and right tackle Chris Clark switched spots. And other than a few practices at left tackle during the Matt Rhule era, Moton’s been a fixture at right tackle ever since.
During that time, Moton has seldom come out for as much as one play with a jammed finger, a twisted ankle or an equipment problem. It doesn’t mean he’s always felt amazing.
“Not every game you’re gonna feel good. But gotta add to that warmup a little bit and do whatever I can,” he said. “Whatever it takes to feel good when the game starts I’ll do it. Ultimately as the game’s going, I’ll start to feel fresher and fresher. The adrenaline’s kicking in and after a while you feel brand new.”
Moton added he’s been lucky in terms of injuries — “knocking on wood, hopefully it stays that way.”
He partially tore his right triceps around Week 5 or 6 last season, threw a brace on his upper arm and kept playing. Moton popped up on in the injury report Thursday with a biceps issue. He was listed as limited, although he looked strong during a one-on-one, pass-blocking rep against Brian Burns, the Panthers’ Pro Bowl edge rusher.
Moton also has dealt with some soreness in his left knee, a repetitive injury caused by pushing off the same leg all those years playing the right side. Moton, listed at 6-5 and 325 pounds, dropped about 10-15 pounds during the offseason and added strengthening exercises to try to reduce the inflammation in the knee.
“I’m feeling good as new,” Moton said before Thursday’s practice. “My motto was: Go into Year 7 (and) still try to feel like a rookie with my body. I feel like I’m there and I’m feeling as good as ever, doing what I can to stay that way.”
When Cam Erving was released as part of the final cuts, it left the 29-year-old Moton as the oldest offensive lineman. With that came a place of honor in the locker room — the coveted, corner spot in the offensive line section where Ryan Kalil, Trai Turnerand Erving preceded Moton.
“Some extra space is cool. I’ve got more room to put my stuff over here,” Moton said, motioning to a five-foot area in front of his stall. “It’s kind of cool to look back, knowing some of the greats that played here at this locker.”
Corbett, who signed with Carolina last year after winning a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams, said Moton deserves the new digs.
“He’s played like whatever thousands of snaps,” Corbett said. “You have to earn it still by playing at a high level. And now he’s played at a high level for a lot of years.”
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Corbett, recovering from ACL surgery this past January, said Moton has been a valuable resource for the first- and second-year offensive linemen like Ikem Ekwonu, whose locker is next to Moton’s.
“We have a young room that’s able to step in and (be) like, OK, this is how somebody has done it. At a high level, this is how you do it,” Corbett said. “So when you have that (youth), somebody’s gotta be a bell cow. And he’s done a great job stepping in there and been that example for everybody.”
Moton is under contract through the 2025 season after signing a four-year, $71.25 million extension in 2021 that has since been restructured twice. Though Moton has never been to a Pro Bowl, he’s been a solid pass blocker who was recently ranked No. 27 among tackles by Pro Football Focus.
It’s hard to put a grade on Moton’s durability, which has not gone unnoticed.
“I’ve noticed how he takes care of himself, how he’s striving — even when he’s hurt — to make sure he’s ready every game day. And I appreciate him for that. Guys can feel that,” tight end Tommy Tremble said. “When you have a guy that’s that much of a vet and still playing, not complaining about anything, like, ‘Ah, this hurts but gotta go to work.’ Seeing that stuff is inspiring us to keep to his level and his preparation, everything.”
Moton’s streak of 99 consecutive games is tied for the sixth-longest, active streak among offensive linemen, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Moton remembers one of his coaches telling him the best ability for a football player was availability, something the Michigan native has taken to heart.
“Ultimately, I do everything I can to make sure I’m out there on the field. I take a lot of pride in staying healthy,” he said. “Obviously, they gave me the starting job. They believe I give them the best chance to help win at that spot. I take that very seriously.”