CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Matt Kalil signed a five-year, $55.5 million deal in free agency to protect Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's blind side.
Through three games he has given up four sacks, tied with Ereck Flowers of the New York Giants for the most in the NFL by a starting left tackle, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Green Bay Packers' Kyle Murphy also has given up four sacks, but he played one game on the right side.
Kalil has given up a pair of sacks in each of the last two games. None was more costly than on third-and-4 from the New Orleans Saints' eight-yard line during Carolina's first drive of Sunday's 34-13 loss. Kalil went right when the play called for him to go left. That left end Cameron Jordan free to sack Newton and forced the Panthers to settle for another field goal. This came a week after the Panthers had to settle for three field goals in a 9-3 win against the Buffalo Bills.
Kalil also has given up 11 pressures, seven against the Bills, and one quarterback hit.
So not all of Carolina's troubles scoring touchdowns can be put on Newton, whose surgically-repaired shoulder also remains a concern.
But Kalil insists what happened on Sunday was rare and probably won't happen again this year -- at least by him. He says the more he plays next to Andrew Norwell -- in his words a "beast of a guard' -- the better he and the rest of the line will be.
"I'll be where I want to be," Kalil said
The Panthers aren't where they want to be offensively, ranking 29th in the league with an average of 15 points a game. They've scored only one touchdown in the last nine quarters.
They are particularly dreadful in the red zone, tied with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Miami Dolphins for last in the NFL in scoring with a 25 percent success rate. The Kansas City Chiefs lead the way at 75 percent. The New England Patriots, next up on Carolina's schedule, are 19th at 53.33 percent.
Mental mistakes such as the one Kalil made are a reason why. The Panthers kept the ball for almost nine minutes on the opening drive, only to settle for a field goal after Newton was sacked for a 6-yard loss.
On 24 plays inside the red zone Carolina has gained a total of 39 yards, scoring six field goals and only two touchdowns. They've had three plays go for negative yards and 10 for a yard or less.
Newton is 3-for-8 passing for 24 yards, including a spike to stop the clock, inside the 20. He never had a chance to complete the pass on Kalil's missed assignment.
"Obviously, going the wrong way doesn't help out," Kalil said. "It's just little things. We're not far off from where we want to be. Some mistakes have turned into big mistakes, but if we eliminated certain things we'll get to where we want to be."
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula and coach Ron Rivera also are encouraged by what they've gotten out of the fourth pick of the 2012 draft, acquired in free agency after he spent five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.
Rivera said what the Panthers do offensively, particularly with Newton in the shotgun much of the game, puts a lot of pressure on the left tackle.
"I think he's done a pretty decent job," Rivera said of Kalil. "There's been some things that you can pin on him as he's learning and growing in the system and there is some things that can pin on us as to what else goes on in the game.
"But we are continue to work hard and keep developing and growing and I think things will work themselves out. I really do."
Shula likes what Kalil has brought to the offense.
"Has Matt played 100 percent? No," Shula said. "But has he does some things at left tackle that we haven't had here before in regard to pass protection and run blocking? Yeah, he's done some really good things.
"Build on the good and fix the mistakes."
Despite the offensive woes, Kalil still believes the Panthers can be a potent offensive team with Newton and playmakers such as running back Christian McCaffrey.
"On paper it looks awesome," he said. "Now we have to perform to how we look on paper. I have no doubt we will."