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If the Carolina Panthers have had one consistent position that has always been a source of reliability since 1995, it has been Middle Linebacker. Starting with the franchise’s first one in Sam Mills, the Panthers have always had consistent play and even elite players at the center of their defenses.
After Mills players such as Jon Beason, Dan Morgan, Will Witherspoon and the newly retired Luke Kuechly, have all been stars in Carolina. Now with Kuechly working in the front office, Carolina has transitioned the middle of the field to a new potential star.
Fifth year starter Shaquille “Shaq” Thompson is next in line to take over as the next great Panther linebacker. He has increased his overall solo, assisted and total tackles in each of the last four seasons. His ability to get into the backfield on running plays has improved, as he led the team with 11 tackles for loss in the 2019 season.
His 91 solo tackles ranked him tied for 12th in the entire league. Thompson has only missed 42 tackles in his year career and has been graded 70 or above in run defense in four of his five seasons in the league.
Mostly known for his ability in pass coverage, he also contributed three sacks and four quarterback knockdowns, which showed his ability to rush the passer. With the Panthers’ two leading tacklers from a season ago (Kuechly and Safety Eric Reid) not on the team in 2020, Thompson will be the leading returning tackler. The next returning Panther is Free Safety Tre Boston with 68 solo tackles.
Even though Kawann Short returns to the lineup, the Panthers will potentially have six new starters on defense. So not it’s not only time for Shaq Thompson to fill the shoes of a franchise icon but to become the next leader of the Carolina Panthers’ defense.