Panthers News: Brian Burns, Brandon Smith, The Blueprint and expectations

Brian Burns
Brian Burns / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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Brandon Smith's precarious Carolina Panthers future

One player that is in danger of getting lost in the huge changes made by the Carolina Panthers this offseason is Brandon Smith. The athletic linebacker flashed moments of promise with minimal involvement on the defense rotation last season, but Ejiro Evero's switch to a 3-4 base scheme means a fringe role is arguably the best he could hope for unless monumental improvements arrive in the coming weeks.

When discussing the former Penn State standout recently, Mike Kaye of The Charlotte Observer stated via Yahoo Sports that Smith doesn't appear to be the primary backup to the inside linebacker tandem of Shaq Thompson and Frankie Luvu currently. However, the writer did add that we are still early in the process with training camp on the immediate horizon.

"[Brandon] Smith — last year’s fourth-round pick — is working with the depth groups. Veteran Kamu Grugier-Hill appears to be penciled in as the main backup for Thompson and Luvu, so Smith will need to have a strong camp to pick up snaps on defense. Obviously, it’s still early in the transition process with the new 3-4 front, and Smith has a worthwhile draft pedigree, but it’s hard to see where he fits on the depth chart beyond being a special teams contributor. Padded practices will be important in the evaluation process, and Smith could easily stick out in that phase."

Mike Kaye via Yahoo Sports

As Kaye put it, Smith will be an important player on special teams thanks to his physicality and explosiveness. But if he cannot rise to the occasion and earn defensive reps in 2023, it'll be a major disappointment.

The gauntlet has been laid down to Smith. How he responds will be telling.