Week 3 spotlight: Tahir Whitehead has plenty to prove at the Chargers

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Tahir Whitehead
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Tahir Whitehead /

Tahir Whitehead has endured a difficult start to life with the Carolina Panthers, but can the linebacker get back on track at the Los Angeles Chargers?

It looks like it is going to be some time before the Carolina Panthers get over the departure of Luke Kuechly.

The legendary linebacker called it a day after eight sensational seasons with the Carolina Panthers following the conclusion of the 2019 campaign. Kuechly’s intelligence and ability to make big plays came with a plethora of notable individual accolades. But the perennial All-Pro was unable to clinch an elusive first Super Bowl for the franchise despite a very near miss in 2015.

Kuechly is still part of the organization after accepting a role as a pro scout, but it is just not the same.

Tahir Whitehead’s rough start with the Carolina Panthers.

Tahir Whitehead was the man chosen by the decision-makers to replace the former first-round pick. The free-agent signing signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal during the offseason, and to say he has gotten off to an indifferent start would be something of an understatement.

This linked the player back with his former college coach Matt Rhule after the pair worked together at Temple. He did perform well for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2019 despite not getting a contract extension, but this trend hasn’t continued over the first two weeks of the season in Carolina.

Whitehead’s performances have not been what the Panthers expected. He has failed to provide an assured tackling presence in the run game and his deficiencies in coverage are a clear and obvious concern.

This is reflected by his Pro Football Focus grading over two weeks, which ranks Whitehead dead last among linebackers with an abysmal 27.1 grade. While PFF isn’t the be-all and end-all, it isn’t hard to see that his level of production so far has been less than stellar.

Nobody will know this more than Whitehead himself. He holds himself to a high standard and takes pride in being a leader, something that saw the player voted as a team captain prior to their season opener.

It might just be a case of adjusting to the rigors of the NFL once again after not having any warmup games to do so. Whitehead will have to raise his game considerably at the Chargers on Sunday otherwise it could be another long afternoon for the player and the Panthers.

Los Angeles has a formidable running back tandem in Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley, who could become a real problem for the Panthers if they can dictate the tempo from the outset. It will be up to Whitehead and others to get to the point of attack quickly and get their angles right to limit their threat.

It might be early in the season, but it already looks like Whitehead has his work cut out to get a longer-term commitment from Carolina. He has recorded eight solo tackles and 12 combined tackles so far this season, but not much else. This is a trend that needs to change at the earliest possible opportunity.

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Whitehead has plenty to prove at SoFi Stadium this weekend. And the onus will be on the veteran to prove his worth in the face of another talented offense.