4 most important Panthers players vs. the Saints in Week 17

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Curtis Samuel
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Curtis Samuel /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /

Shaq Thompson – Carolina Panthers OLB

The Saints won’t have Alvin Kamara or Latavius Murray in the backfield due to COVID-19 complications, so expect to see a heavy dose of Taysom Hill in this area of the field. The do-it-all quarterback is a nightmare to plan for thanks to his unique skill set and the Carolina Panthers need to have their wits about them every time he is in the lineup.

Shaq Thompson is going to play a pivotal role in limiting Hill’s production. The outside linebacker is the most experienced member of the second level by a wide margin, so he’ll need to be clued up on what New Orleans is running from a scheme perspective and communicate this well with his teammates.

Thompson’s quality of play has risen considerably during the second half of the season. Carolina’s decision to bench Tahir Whitehead in favor of Jermaine Carter has clearly had a positive impact on the former first-round pick and this turnaround might have just saved him from a possible release this offseason.

This might still happen thanks in no small part to the lofty pay rise Thompson will receive in 2021. The Washington product’s base salary will leap from $4.4 million to $10.18 million and it would save the Panthers around $17 million over the next three years if they moved on from the contract.

Thompson will therefore want to leave absolutely no doubt regarding his importance to the organization moving forward as the curtain comes down on his sixth season as a professional.