Shaq Thompson – Carolina Panthers OLB
Considering how long Shaq Thompson has been around, his influence within the Carolina Panthers remains evergrowing. The outside linebacker has emerged further into a leadership role this offseason and is now the unofficial mouthpiece between the players and head coach Matt Rhule for a collective approach to progression.
Thompson’s production on the field might not be to everyone’s liking. But it’s hard to deny that the former first-round pick came on leaps and bounds in 2021 after taking time to adjust without Luke Kuechly alongside him on the second-level interior.
Becoming a productive NFL defender takes hard work and commitment. Thompson had to evolve quickly after Kuechly hung up his cleats and Thomas Davis left in free agency, which saw the Washington product quickly become one of the team’s longest-serving players amid all the chaos.
Compared to other outside linebackers across the league, Thompson’s contribution goes relatively overlooked. There are some areas that could improve such as generating pressure and becoming more consistent in coverage, which will be needed if the player wants the bumper salary-cap hit coming his way in the final year of his deal.
For now, the Panthers are far better off with Thompson in the lineup. Especially considering the remaining doubts about the middle linebacker position once again.