3 under-the-radar Panthers that must perform in Week 12 vs. Broncos

(Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) Bravvion Roy
(Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) Bravvion Roy /
3 of 3
Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Brandon Smith /

Brandon Smith – Carolina Panthers LB

With the Carolina Panthers missing in-form linebacker Cory Littleton against the Denver Broncos, it seems like a good chance to get rookie Brandon Smith more involved. The 2022 fourth-round selection hasn’t been involved all that much on the defensive rotation this season, which is surprising when one considers the impact made over the preseason and something that left many wondering whether he could be a long-term starter as a result.

Smith has all the physical gifts to become potentially dominant. But the Panthers are showing a reluctance to introduce the former Penn State star, which appears strange considering they aren’t playing for all that much over their remaining games.

Getting a good look at Smith allows Carolina to decide whether he can be relied upon ahead of another critical offseason for the franchise in 2023. It would be a surprise if further additions didn’t arrive at the second level, but the decision-makers must also determine if the first-year-pro can evolve into a starting option next season and beyond.

Littleton’s absence opens a slight window for Smith. However, much will also depend on how much confidence interim head coach Steve Wilks has in his abilities.

Smith played a season-high 35 percent of defensive snaps in Week 11 at the Baltimore Ravens. More of the same could be on the way against the Denver Broncos, so it’s absolutely vital he makes the most of every down and comes up with a big play or two along the way.

Must Read. 4 ways Sam Darnold can seize final Carolina Panthers starting chance in Week 12. light