5 Carolina Panthers players to feel more confident about in 2021

(Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) Donte Jackson
(Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) Donte Jackson /
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(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /

Shaq Thompson – Carolina Panthers OLB

It’s a big season ahead for Shaq Thompson. The outside linebacker went over 100 tackles for the second straight year in 2020, but his production overall was not what the Carolina Panthers hoped in the immediate aftermath of Luke Kuechly’s retirement.

The former first-round pick is well respected and brings certain likable traits to Carolina’s defense. However, his struggles in coverage were evident last time around and Thompson has never been the sort of player that can generate consistent pressure in opposing backfields.

Thompson restructured his contract to free up some additional funds this offseason. Whether he’s on the roster by the time 2022 training camp rolls around is another matter entirely.

One thing Thompson will have that wasn’t present last season was a stable presence alongside him on the interior. Denzel Perryman’s free-agent arrival from the Los Angeles Chargers promises to bring a tremendous amount of energy and aggressiveness that was sorely lacking without Kuechly.

The Washington product has proven more than capable of making a telling contribution with the right tools around him. Thompson might not be the alpha he wanted heading into 2020, but fans should feel more optimistic about what he can do in the coming months.