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When the Panthers made Ickey Ekwonu the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, the expectation was that he’d be installed as their left tackle for his rookie season.

That may remain the likely outcome, but it isn’t a job that the Panthers are just handing to the rookie. Brady Christensen has been getting the first reps with the first team so far in training camp and head coach Matt Rhule said this week that Ekwonu still has to earn the right to take over that role.

“I don’t think we’re bringing Ickey along slowly. As a rookie, you get opportunities, but you have to earn what you get. You have to fight and battle,” Rhule said, via Ellis L. Williams of the Charlotte Observer. “He certainly wants to be a starter. If he’s going to, he has to battle. Brady’s going to have to battle. And we’re just taking a very long approach here. We don’t need to make these decisions this week.”

There’s ample time for Ekwonu to prove he’s ready to handle the left tackle job by the start of the regular season and the fact that the Panthers have enough capable linemen to make him fight for the job would seem to be an upgrade on their constant scramble to find anyone to fill out the lineup last season.