Carolina Panthers

After rough day, rookie lineman Kalil might lose starting job

CHARLOTTE -- After enjoying his debut game at right guard a week ago, Carolina Panthers rookie Ryan Kalil was brought back to earth in his second game at his new position, giving up a pair of sacks in the team's 34-21 loss to the Houston Texans.

The All-American center from Southern Cal, the Panthers second-round pick, was worked over by fellow rookie Amobi Okoye for one and Anthony Maddox for another (both on third downs).

"I don't know; just a bunch of highs and lows in this game, and my lows were definitely in crucial situations," Kalil said. "Third downs, they're counting on me to do well in one-on-one pass rush and I just got beat. It's as simple as that. No excuse for it. I just let the guys down. I tried to bounce back and keep coming back. It just happens and there's nothing I can do about it.

"It's a new position for me. That's not an excuse at all, but I definitely have a lot of work to do."

The question now becomes how long he'll have to work through the problem.

Jeremy Bridges, the guy they planned on starting there in camp, will return today from his two-week suspension. Bridges was docked two weeks with pay after being arrested for assault the day before training camp, after he allegedly pointed a gun at a female employee of a strip club.

While he's been away from the team facility the entire time, they did spend the first half of training camp working with him in the starting lineup, before experimenting with center Justin Hartwig and then Kalil there.

The rookie played well last week in St. Louis (though the Rams line doesn't compare to the Texans athletic front), and seemed comfortable out of the middle, though he never played guard in college.

"Obviously, it's frustrating because I want to do well for my guys, and also it's a loss, and that's a tough situation to come back from," Kalil said, evaluating his day. "I had Jordan Gross in there and Hartwig and Mike Wahle kept me up through the game.

"I didn't really get down or anything like that. I was upset about giving up the sacks, and it's something I've got to work on, got to get better at."

• INJURY UPDATE: The Panthers might have lost a significant contributor to their special teams, as cornerback Dante Wesley left the game after the opening kickoff with a collarbone injury.

He was wearing a sling over his left shoulder in the locker room afterward, and if it's broken, he'll likely miss the rest of the season.

"Yeah, definitely, that hurts," special teams captain Nick Goings said. "He's a big part of the team. Other guys will have to be there and step up. We'll have to figure it out and get it right."

• STILL STRUGGLING: After rookie Ryne Robinson failed to impress on kickoffs last week (21.3 yards per), Goings was back there Sunday. He had five for 101 yards (20.2 per), but lost a fumble which was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown in the third-quarter avalanche.

"He just hit me, put his head right on the ball, and I fumbled it," Goings said. "I wish I could take it back but I can't."

• LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION: Prior to the start of the third quarter, trailing 17-14, quarterback Jake Delhomme called up the offense for a meeting. They proceeded to go three-and-out.

"We intended to come out in the second half and put a drive together, and we didn't, it was frustrating," fullback Brad Hoover said. "So the whole thing was, we needed to get on the same page, we needed to get everybody's enthusiasm going, and that's what that meeting was about. Evidently, it didn't work.

"We've got to come out and play every week. As an offensive group, we've got to play together every week, and we didn't do that today. It's disappointing for us, we're frustrated. The thing about it, as hard as it is, you have to put this one behind you and move on to next week."

• EXTRA POINTS: After taking the 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Panthers were outgained 200-22 the rest of the first half. ...

The Panthers inactive list was much like last week's with defensive end Stanley McClover out with his "thigh" injury, and rookie receiver Dwayne Jarrett out again because he doesn't play special teams and they have more experienced options there.

Also down for the Panthers were injured safety Nate Salley, defensive end Charles Johnson, linebacker Tim Shaw, tight end Marcus Freeman, tackle Frank Omiyale and third quarterback Matt Moore. ...

Texans starting defensive tackle Travis Johnson was inactive, and he was replaced by 37-year-old Jeff Zgonina, who played for the Panthers in 1995. Also inactive for the Texans was tackle Rashad Butler, who was cut by the Panthers after final cuts to make room for Omiyale.