Grading every Panthers positional group after Week 1 of free agency
By Noah Bryce
Carolina Panthers linebackers
The void left by the early retirement of franchise legend Luke Kuechly has not been an easy one to fill. And how could it be? The seven-time Pro Bowler was in on every play and seemed to have the entire field on lock no matter the situation.
Kuechly also showed impressive coverage ability which gave the Carolina Panthers some much-needed flexibility at the position. As shown by the consecutive interceptions the linebacker made against Tony Romo on Thanksgiving in 2015.
Last offseason’s signing of Tahir Whitehead to be the new leader of the Panthers defense did not age well and left the team with a hole to fill once again. The veteran only started nine games last season and didn’t look like the player anybody hoped.
Whitehead’s tackle numbers were cut in half and they gave up a staggering 82.8 completion percentage. Only five of the passes thrown his way last season were incompletions and these stats led to the former Raider only being in 38 percent of the Panthers defensive snaps.
The Panthers look to have taken a major step forward with the signing of former Los Angeles Charger Denzel Perryman. While injuries have certainly been an issue for the young star, never completing a full season, one can’t argue with their production when healthy.
Opposing passers had a 73.9 percent completion percentage against Perryman last season which isn’t great but is consistent with other players on the team. However, it is certainly an improvement over Whitehead. As is the singular missed tackle conceded in 2020.
This consistency paired with the coverage and multiple position ability of a player like Jeremy Chinn should take some pressure off Shaq Thompson and improve the entire defense up-front in the process.
So while Chinn and Thompson might take a statistical dip next season, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it’s caused by increased production elsewhere and all signs point to that being a possibility.
A rising tide lifts all boats after all.
As long as the injury bug doesn’t come back, the Panthers could be looking at another star duo for years to come and finally have the ability to divide the field among multiple players again. Those injuries are the only thing holding back my grade from being higher.