5 Panthers players who need to become alphas at 2021 training camp

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Donte Jackson
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Donte Jackson /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /

Shaq Thompson – Carolina Panthers OLB

It was no secret that Shaq Thompson has big ambitions to become the Carolina Panthers’ alpha on defense in the immediate aftermath of Luke Kuechly’s bombshell retirement.

The outside linebacker is one of the most experienced members of the roster after wholesale changes over the last two seasons. Although things didn’t go according to plan last time around, the former first-round pick has another opportunity to make his presence felt and lead from the front.

Thompson went through a significant period of transition in 2020, his first season without Kuechly alongside him at the second level. This saw some inconsistencies creep into the Washington product’s game and even though he went over 100 tackles once again, many viewed his overall production as disappointing.

The Panthers restructured Thompson’s deal to such an extent that he should be around until 2023. What comes after that is unclear.

Thompson is one of the last remaining players from the 2015 Super Bowl run. This experience can be put to good use on a defense that has an enormous amount going for it in 2021.

He should also benefit from the free-agent signing of Denzel Perryman. So there will be no more excuses for Thompson this time around.