4 Carolina Panthers players who have raised their stock this summer

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Shi Smith
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Shi Smith /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Brandon Smith /

Brandon Smith – Carolina Panthers LB

The Carolina Panthers still have some concerns about the middle linebacker position. Nothing new since Luke Kuechly retired, but they might boast a long-term option after the smoothest of transitions from fourth-round pick Brandon Smith this offseason.

Smith came into the Panthers as a development project with elite athletic attributes. He’s taken on board a lot of coaching in a short space of time, which saw the Penn State product stand out considerably as camp went on and during whatever reps came his way in preseason fixtures.

There is a lot to like about Smith’s explosiveness. His reading of the game came on leaps and bounds, which is matched by outstanding instincts and short-area burst that gets him to the spot quickly.

The physicality Smith displays looks tailormade for a starting role in the not-too-distant future. Just when Carolina feels confident enough to put him into the lineup is the big question.

Matt Rhule and his staff could roll with Damien Wilson and Cory Littleton as a tandem over the first few weeks. This would allow Smith to come in on a rotational basis while also playing a key role on special teams.

Providing Smith improves his gap discipline against the run, the Panthers have a real steal on their hands. And it would be a big shock if he wasn’t heavily involved from midseason onwards.

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