Jordan Mack return should excite the Carolina Panthers
By Dean Jones
The return of undrafted free-agent Jordan Mack in 2021 is one of the more exciting elements to keep an eye on where the Carolina Panthers are concerned.
Much has been made of the lack of production at the second level following the retirement of Luke Kuechly. The perennial All-Pro and former Defensive Player of the Year left a gaping hole that free-agent signing Tahir Whitehead struggled to fill for the Carolina Panthers in no uncertain terms. Even though things improved when Jermaine Carter was installed into the lineup, it remains to be seen when he can fill the void long-term after getting off to a rocky start with head coach Matt Rhule.
There are plenty of talented players for the Panthers to consider in free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft. But they also have an intriguing prospect returning to the fold this time around that brings plenty of excitement to the table.
Jordan Mack opted-out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 health concerns after failing to hear his name called in the NFL Draft. The versatile linebacker has all the athleticism Matt Rhule sought heavily during his recruitment process in Carolina and providing the player has been working on his game away from the gridiron, there is a lot to like about his potential moving forward.
Despite moving from a defensive back to the second level at Virginia, Mack coped with this transition seamlessly on his way to 14.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for loss, 289 combined tackles, 122 solo tackles, and six forced fumbles.
Jordan Mack brings more athleticism to the Carolina Panthers.
His experience in coverage really stood out and noticeable explosiveness over short bursts enabled Mack to be a sideline-to-sideline presence that was capable of making a difference on any given down.
Getting some additional time to improve his technique and knowledge of the position may be the making of him. No player should be criticized for putting their health first, but what comes next for Mack will shape his future in a professional environment.
Make no mistake, this is an area where the Panthers need immediate assistance.
Jeremy Chinn shone at outside linebacker during his rookie campaign but might be moved back to safety following the release of Tre Boston, Shaq Thompson’s future is increasingly uncertain thanks to the big pay rise coming his way in 2021, and the troubles on the interior have been well documented in Kuechly’s absence.
If the 6-foot-3, 240-pound presence of Mack can hit the ground running, it would be a tremendous asset to call upon. Former Alabama linebacker Christian Miller is also coming back after choosing to opt-out rather than play, but the Panthers don’t quite know what they have just yet with him.
Only time will tell as to whether Mack can make an instant impression.
It won’t take long for the coaching staff to figure out how much he’s put into his time away from the game. But he has some tremendous upside in the right fit which Carolina could provide if the prospect shows enough.
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Phil Snow’s defense made some incredible strides as the season went on. There is a solid young corner to build what could be a formidable unit in the coming years and if Mack can reach his ceiling quickly, then some significant involvement from the word go is not entirely out of the question.