Carolina Panthers training camp: 3 big questions at linebacker

(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 Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Shaq Thompson /

Carolina Panthers Question No. 2: Can Shaq Thompson lead on defense?

Shaq Thompson is making all the right noises regarding his ability to become a leader on defense in Luke Kuechly’s absence. The outside linebacker has had the security blanket of the perennial All-Pro by his side throughout his career. And now is the time to step up with increased responsibility with the Carolina Panthers.

It is easy to talk big before getting out on the field. But it is another for Thompson to prove his capability in a leadership role.

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The player is entering his sixth season as a professional. And the onus will now fall on the former first-round pick to guide younger members of the roster through this period of transition on and off the field.

Thompson is now one of the more experienced players on defense following a host of veteran departures in free agency. This will undoubtedly benefit the team in the long run. But it is going to be a trial by fire for the group against some dominant-looking offenses on the schedule in 2020.

This is a challenge that the Washington product is sure to relish. Thompson is a relentless force at the top of his game. And his career stats to date stand at 356 combined tackles, 238 solo tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 20 quarterback hits, 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, 12 pass deflections, and one interception.

What comes next will be entirely up to the player. Combining leadership responsibilities with production is not an easy task. And it will be interesting to see how Thompson reacts.