4 Panthers players who need to step up vs. the Falcons in Week 8
By Dean Jones
Shaq Thompson – Carolina Panthers OLB
Shaq Thompson has had his fair share of critics this season, of that there is little doubt. There were plenty of lofty expectations on his shoulders following the shock retirement of Luke Kuechly, which primarily came from the player himself.
Thompson made no secret of the fact he was looking to become the Carolina Panthers’ defensive lynchpin now the perennial All-Pro is no longer on the roster. But this has not materialized so far and has left some questioning his long-term future with the franchise.
Kuechly provided Thompson with a security blanket that masked his poor play in the past. This is something the outside linebacker simply doesn’t have now and this is being exposed in no uncertain terms.
The former first-round pick has been average in run support through the first seven weeks of the season. But it is his lack of ability in coverage that has become a real problem at the second level.
This hasn’t exactly been helped by the dismal Tahir Whitehead alongside him. And the fact rookie Jeremy Chinn is outshining the pair despite him playing the position for the first time is another damning verdict on their overall performance.
Atlanta will know this is an area that can be exploited. So it will be up to Thompson to raise his game accordingly, provide solid communication, and make the sort of difference on a three-down basis that the Panthers were hoping for at the start of the campaign.