The Carolina Panthers solidified their linebacker position with the addition of Shaq Thompson, who will join middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and outside linebacker Thomas Davis. On film the first thing that stands out with Thompson is his speed. He is a fast linebacker who closes quickly and can cover tight ends, running backs out of the backfield and even once against the Beavers lined up against their slot wide receiver.
The play of the game for Thompson came in the fourth quarter when Oregon State’s running back swung out of the backfield and was about to catch a dump off pass. Thompson recognized the play quick and put a huge hit on the back that jarred the ball loose.
The speed of Thompson also allows him to close on running plays, like this one.
When Thompson has a clean lane to the ball carrier, he usually makes the play and the tackle. However in the NFL, he won’t always have a clean lane and will need to learn to shed blockers to make the play. Against the Beavers, there was two occasions that stood out where he couldn’t shed the blockers and get to the ball carrier. This was one of those plays.
Thompson’s body size makes him a little bit of a tweener between strong safety and outside linebacker. At only 228 pounds he is going to have trouble breaking away from blockers who is sure to have a size advantage. He will need to use his speed to avoid these blockers and not allow them to engage him.
The Panthers defense towards the end of last year worked out of the nickel defense a majority of the time. The injury to A.J. Klein didn’t give them three linebackers who could play sideline to sideline. The addition of Thompson now gives them this and should be a perfect fit next to Kuechly and Davis.
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