Panthers: 3 ways Shaq Thompson can become the defensive leader

(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) Shaq Thompson
(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) Shaq Thompson /
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Shaq Thompson, Carolina Panthers
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Shaq Thompson /

Carolina Panthers No. 2: Production

Another thing that Shaq Thompson needs to do in order to become a leader on defense is to produce the good when it matters most. The player has been a consistent performer during his time in the NFL so far. But he will need to reach a completely different level in 2020.

Thompson is coming off a good year on a Panthers’ defense that struggled overall. He recorded 75 solo tackles, 109 combined tackles, three sacks, 11 tackles for loss, three pass deflections, and four quarterback hits. This earned the linebacker a modest 65.8 grade from Pro Football Focus. But moving back to a 4-3 base scheme under Phil Snow should play to his strengths.

This will give Thompson more freedom on the outside to cover the edge. This is something he did superbly over his initial time in the league. And playing behind a defensive front that appears loaded with individuals who can make a real difference is another big plus.

Everything is in position for Thompson to increase his production substantially next season. There is plenty of financial incentive for the player to become an integral part of the organization. And his base salary is set to skyrocket in 2021.

Thompson’s $4 million in base salary will increase to $10.18 million in 2021. This is the second season of his four-year, $54.43 million deal he signed recently. But Carolina does have an out regarding his deal next spring that would save them around $17.85 million if things do not go according to plan.