Grading Panthers position groups on defense ahead of 2022 camp

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Donte Jackson
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Donte Jackson /
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Carolina Panthers
(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) Damien Wilson /

Carolina Panthers ILBs

After so much exceptional production from the inside linebacker position throughout franchise history, things have taken a significant turn for the worse since legendary figure Luke Kuechly hung up his cleats to preserve his long-term health following the 2019 season.

This has left a gaping hole at the second level. Losing someone with the supreme consistently Kuechly brought to the table was always going to come with a period of transition for the Carolina Panthers, but unless things change pretty soon, it’s a critical area of the field that will hold a talented defense back.

Damien Wilson is the latest set to be tasked with filling such enormous shoes. The former Super Bowl winner does have some talent that could be of use, but poor production in coverage coupled with a concerning offseason arrest brings some doubts heading into the main preparation period.

There are also some encouraging signs behind Cory Littleton’s level of performance during his career. However, it remains to be seen just how much of a factor he’ll be and it also appears as if fourth-round rookie Brandon Smith also needs some refinement before seeing starting reps.

Position Grade: D

Panthers fans have been spoiled for the longest time with some outstanding contributors at inside linebacker. Unless the likes of Wilson make a big-time splash, this could end up being one of the team’s biggest priorities in 2023 when it’s all said and done.