5 Panthers position groups that might be better than expected in 2021

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Juston Burris
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Juston Burris /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson and Jermaine Carter /

Carolina Panthers LBs

Luke Kuechly’s retirement was a body blow that the Carolina Panthers couldn’t recover from in 2020. If the same happens again this season, it could represent some real problems for a defense that has plenty going for it judging by the level of talent across the board.

If there was one potential weak link, it might be the second level. Jermaine Carter, Shaq Thompson, and free-agent signing Haason Reddick will be tasked with providing a solid group throughout the campaign, which could have big implications as to how the Panthers will fare in 2021.

Urgency is a keyword where the trio is concerned.

Carter and Reddick are both seeking big-money deals next spring, with Thompson also fighting for his future with the former first-round pick’s salary-cap figure set to soar up to over $18 million next year.

There’s nothing to suggest they cannot do well. But if the Panthers want to make serious strides in the coming months, they need their linebacker unit to be much more than that.

Providing Carter communicates well and becomes a sideline-to-sideline presence, Reddick generates some substantial pressure coming off the edge, and Thompson brushes up some frustrating areas of his game, this might come with a surprising turnaround in fortunes at linebacker in the team’s second season without Kuechly manning the interior.