Could Andre Smith take what he has learned from Luke Kuechly and make more of an impact for the Carolina Panthers in 2020?
The Carolina Panthers lost the services of legendary linebacker Luke Kuechly to retirement this offseason. Although it was strangely in keeping with their bid to go younger. There is no doubt that the perennial All-Pro’s absence from the line up is a significant blow to the organization.
What new Panthers’ head coach Matt Rhule wouldn’t give to have Kuechly’s passion, knowledge, and talent on the field during the first year of his rebuild. The popular figure might be staying around in Carolina as a pro scout. But there is just no telling how much he will be missed on the field and within the locker room.
One person’s departure represents an opportunity for others. The Panthers brought in Tahir Whitehead during free agency on a one-year, $2.5 million deal to fill the role short-term. But more is going to be needed if the former Las Vegas Raiders fails to produce the goods.
Continuing our countdown feature ahead of the new season, we now turn our attention to Carolina’s No. 57. Andre Smith has shown some promise during his limited time on the field. But this could be his biggest opportunity yet to make his presence felt on the depth chart.
There appears to be no depth behind Whitehead on the Panthers’ depth chart. This could see Smith earn the role No. 2 role if Carolina’s coaching staff decides to use Jermaine Carter as an outside linebacker opposite Shaq Thompson.
Smith is heading into the penultimate year of his $2.54 million rookie deal. And the player must impress a completely new coaching staff if he wants to make any sort of impact in Carolina long-term.
Could Andre Smith see more time on the field for the Panthers?
It’s hard to gauge his capability given the lack of time Smith has spent on the field so far. He did manage to earn a respectable 65.8 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2019. And learning from someone like Kuechly could have done wonders for his overall aspirations.
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The linebacker was no stranger to the Panthers’ fanbase having enjoyed a successful three-year spell with North Carolina in college. Not much was expected of him at the next level. But Smith does have an intriguing skill set that may catch the eye during a limited training camp.
There is fierce competition for places across the board. The Panthers brought in a host of fresh faces who could make their mark. And an increased sense of urgency is something that has been sorely lacking in recent years.
Smith is the sort of player that you cannot help rooting for. His passion and energy come across on almost every snap. And although he will never be a top player at the position. He does have the necessary tools to make a successful career out of being a complimentary piece.
Every team in the NFL needs these players if they want to challenge. If Smith can catch the eye and gain more experience in 2020, then there is every chance the former seventh-round pick might contend for a starting position next year.
That will be easier said than done. But Smith will not be found wanting in terms of effort over the next few weeks.