Shaq Thompson – Carolina Panthers OLB
There aren’t many places within the Carolina Panthers that boast experience in a knockout setting. So the onus will be on Shaq Thompson to lead, motivate, and inspire when the rubber hits the road this weekend.
Thompson is one of two remaining Panthers players that were on the 2015 team that reached the Super Bowl. Something Steve Wilks was also a part of, so he’ll be looking to the former first-round pick to become his eyes and ears on the field at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Washington product is performing at a high level this season. Thompson has a career-high 116 tackles to his name with two games remaining, with his pre-snap communication and organizational skills coming on leaps and bounds for good measure.
Carolina needs all this and more from Thompson in Week 17 if the Panthers want to stand any chance of overcoming the odds. Tampa Bay’s rushing attack got plenty of joy on outside runs against the Arizona Cardinals, so setting the edge and making tackles count is of paramount importance against Leonard Fournette, who comes alive at this time of year.
Thompson’s endured plenty of failure since joining the Panthers, so this is a refreshing change of pace. It’s also worth remembering that the player is also fighting for his future as a potential salary-cap casualty, which should provide all the motivation required for a big performance.