Panthers elevate veteran lineman from practice squad ahead of MNF matchup vs. Saints

The Panthers will have some additional depth along the offensive line on Monday against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium.

Carolina elevated veteran lineman Justin McCray to the game-day roster ahead of the Week 2 matchup. McCray, a seven-year veteran, received the first of three allocated standard elevations from the practice roster.

McCray is longtime a pupil of offensive line coach James Campen, who worked with him in Green Bay and Houston before they were reunited again with Carolina. McCray is likely to be the primary backup for center Bradley Bozeman with Cade Mays moving into the starting lineup at one of the guard spots.

McCray lined up as the backup center throughout the majority of training camp at Wofford College. He also rotated with Mays at right guard during the preseason opener against the New York Jets.

On Saturday, Panthers head coach Frank Reich said Mays and rookie Chandler Zavala would start at guard against the Saints, but declined to clarify which side each would line up on. Mays was the first-team right guard for the majority of training camp before Zavala beat him out for the Week 1 job in the preseason. Zavala performed well during his first career start at right guard.

It’s also worth noting that Zavala spent the majority of his college career at left guard, even playing next to left tackle Ickey Ekwonu for a season at N.C. State before the latter turned pro.

Zavala and Mays, a 2022 sixth-round pick, are being thrust into the lineup due to injuries to the incumbent starters at guard. Left guard Brady Christensen underwent surgery on a biceps injury last week after being injured against Atlanta in the season-opener. Christensen was placed on injured reserve and is out for the season. Right guard Austin Corbett tore his ACL in last season’s finale against the Saints and remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list for at least two more weeks.

The Panthers chose to only elevate McCray ahead of the game, which is a good sign for veteran wideout DJ Chark (hamstring), who is listed as questionable entering the matchup. Chark practiced throughout the week after missing the opener against the Falcons. Reich alluded to Chark potentially being on a pitch count against the Saints if active.

The Panthers will kick off their Week 2 matchup against the Saints at 7:15 p.m. in Charlotte.