4 most important Panthers players against the Raiders

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Christian McCaffrey
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Christian McCaffrey /
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Carolina Panthers
(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) Shaq Thompson /

Shaq Thompson – OLB

Shaq Thompson is one of the only remaining defensive starters on the Carolina Panthers from 2019. The organization decided to go in a completely different direction and they will need the outside linebacker to take his game to a completely new level this season.

This is a challenge that Thompson has been relishing throughout the offseason. His keenness to assume a leadership role has been there for all to see and his play during team drills has been eye-catching, to say the least.

The former first-round pick will have his hands full in Week 1 against the Raiders. Thompson will be tasked with helping out in run support and provide an assured tackling presence at the second level following the shock retirement of perennial All-Pro Luke Kuechly.

This is something Thompson is more than capable of. But his involvement in coverage is going to be equally as essential going forward.

There is a chance that Thompson will be tasked with covering Raiders’ tight end Darren Waller this weekend, who enjoyed a phenomenal breakout campaign in 2019. If the player builds on this momentum then he is going to be considered one of the NFL’s best pass-catchers at the position.

The Panthers also have the option of using athletic rookie Jeremy Chinn on Waller. But Thompson might be the preferred way to go given his experience in big games.