Panthers depth chart focus: Shaq Thompson leads new LB room

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /
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Carolina Panthers
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Frankie Luvu /

Frankie Luvu – Carolina Panthers OLB

One of the few pleasant surprises enjoyed by the Carolina Panthers last year was the emergence of do-it-all linebacker Frankie Luvu. After failing to catch on with the New York Jets, the outside linebacker was more or less an afterthought ahead of training camp last summer.

In spite of Luvu’s failed ventures with the Jets, it became evident last preseason that the Panthers had something special on their hands. Last summer, the Washington State product quickly went from “who is this guy, and where did he come from?” to a lock to make the 53-man roster.

Over the course of the season, Luvu’s role continued to evolve. He immediately established himself as a special team ace but also proved that he could positively contribute to the defense.

Luvu quickly won over the hearts and minds of the Panthers fans by playing with a high motor and displaying a willingness to fulfill any role the team asked of him. Feel-good story aside, he simply has a knack for making plays.

Over the course of the season, Luvu collected 43 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and three fumble recoveries. One of his most unforgettable moments came against the Minnesota Vikings when he blocked a punt which was recovered for a touchdown.

Luvu earned four starts throughout the course of the season, demonstrating competence in run defense and some flashes as a pass rusher. It will be very fascinating to monitor his continued development this offseason.

It would be a moderate surprise if he were introduced as a starter come Week 1, but if Cory Littleton fails to take a stranglehold you can guarantee that Luvu will be eager for the opportunity.