Although the Panthers didn’t have much depth in the linebacker room heading into the season, I thought it would be an area of strength for Carolina’s defense. I’ll admit when I’m wrong and man, I was dead wrong.
My overall grade: C-
The linebackers struggled in pass coverage really bad at times, struggled against the run, and applied little to no pressure on the quarterback. There were times where they looked lost and confused and that’s normal early on in the season when getting acclimated to a new defense but there was a lot of miscommunication happening deep into the year. Opposing tight ends hauled in 90 receptions for 900 yards and eight touchdowns. Not all of that was matchups with the Panthers’ linebackers but a good portion of it certainly was.
Tahir Whitehead was a major disappointment this season registering only 51 tackles and recorded zero sacks and tackles for loss. At the time of his signing, I thought it was the best the Panthers could do to replace Luke Kuechly with the cap space that they had available. Whitehead is not a Pro Bowl caliber player by any means but he has pieced together a solid NFL career. In his four years prior to coming to the Queen City, Whitehead averaged 119 tackles and 6.7 tackles for loss per season. To have only 51 tackles is a major drop off.
As for Shaq Thompson, I was a little disappointed with his performance too. It’s not that he played bad, I just think I was expecting a little more out of him now that he is THE guy in the 2nd level of the defense. I’ll be completely shocked if he doesn’t bounce back in 2021 and have a monster season.
There’s no question that the Panthers have to add more talent to that room, especially in terms of quality depth.
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