Carolina Panthers: Players to watch on defense in Week 4

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Julius Peppers
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Julius Peppers /
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CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 18: Shaq Thompson #54
CHARLOTTE, NC – SEPTEMBER 18: Shaq Green-Thompson #54 of the Carolina Panthers recovers a fumble against the San Francisco 49ers in the 1st half during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Shaq Thompson

The former first round pick was expected to have a bigger impact entering 2017. He has yet to see regular playing time due to the Panthers’ defense having two of the best linebackers in the league today: Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis.

However, Thompson could see extended playing time against the Patriots for two reasons. The first is that Davis is banged up with a rib injury that forced him to sit out Wednesday and Thursday’s practice. He did return on Friday but was only a limited participant. This could be a good game to give Thompson a few more snaps and hopefully keep Davis fresh.

The other reason is that the Patriots offense loves to spread the ball around and this includes throwing to their running backs. James White has been one of Brady’s favorite targets after his incredible Super Bowl performance. That has continued into this season as White already has 12 receptions for 126 yards in the first three games.

Thompson is an athletic linebacker who has the agility to keep up with these running backs when the leave the back field on passing routes. He should see plenty of snaps in Week 4 against the Patriots.