Carolina Panthers weekly awards: Week 1 vs. NY Jets

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /

Shaq Thompson – Carolina Panthers OLB

It appears that all Shaq Thompson needed was a number change.

Going back to the No. 7 he wore at Washington spurred Thompson on to what was arguably his finest game for the Carolina Panthers. The outside linebacker led by example and was a constant menace at the second level, producing the sort of all-around display fans have been craving from the former first-round pick in recent years.

If Thompson appeared to find life difficult without Luke Kuechly in 2020. It’s evident this period of adjustment might now be over.

Thompson was much more confident – both in himself and the teammates around him – which resulted in 10 tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, three passes defended, and an interception.

Not bad from a player whose future with the franchise beyond this season remains in doubt.

Thompson is out to prove he’s worthy of the incredible pay increase coming his way in 2022, which currently stands north of $18 million against Carolina’s salary cap. He’ll have to keep this production up consistently to justify such a salary, but even this might not be enough when one considers the savings involved.

For now, one can only marvel at Thompson’s intensity and ability to be around the football prominently in Carolina’s season opener.

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He’ll need to be at the top of his game to thwart the New Orleans Saints and their star running back Alvin Kamara, but he goes into the contest full of confidence.