3 Carolina Panthers players that must improve in Week 9 at Bengals

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Shaq Thompson
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Shaq Thompson /
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Carolina Panthers
(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /

Shaq Thompson – Carolina Panthers OLB

Shaq Thompson is the Carolina Panthers’ second longest-tenured player. His rookie year was the memorable 15-1 campaign in 2015 that ended with a heartbreaking loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

Thompson was mentored by Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, two of the best linebackers in franchise history. This was a solid foundation from which to build, but since these influential figures departed, his production has been inconsistent and something has to change soon.

So far in 2022, Thompson doesn’t have a massive impact play such as a sack, forced fumble, a fumble recovery, or interception. Therefore, some fans may believe he could be on his way out to avoid paying such a huge financial figure in the final year of his deal.

He’s on pace for over 120 total tackles, which would be a career-high. Carolina’s linebacking core is probably the weakest it’s been since Thompson has been with the Panthers and for that reason, there is more pressure on him to step up and make game-changing plays.

So far that hasn’t happened. Thompson’s influence as a leader within the locker room cannot be disputed, but that will count for nothing if the former first-round pick out of Washington continues underwhelming between the white lines.

Thompson must raise his performance level this weekend in the face of star running back Joe Mixon, who can kill teams with his elusiveness once he gets to the second level.