Shaq Thompson finally has regular role for Panthers

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The Panthers have long talked about Shaq Thompson‘s potential.

This year, he has a clear chance to deliver on it, while remaining a very expensive experiment.

Drafted in the first round in 2015 as the eventual heir to Thomas Davis, it took four years for Davis to be out from in front of him. That means Thompson is playing this year on his fifth-year option of $$9.232 million, and the Panthers are still trying to figure out how to use him.

“One of the things we’ve seen in his development over the last couple of years is his versatility,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, via Brendan Marks of the Charlotte Observer. “Everything from having him line up in the nickel position covering receivers to doing some safety work for us, which you guys didn’t catch, which is good.”

With Davis gone, Thompson finally has a secure spot next to Luke Kuechly inside in the Panthers’ defense, as they transition to a hybrid 3-4. They think his ability to cover from inside will be a benefit, as Davis had begun slowing down the last few years. Whether Thompson can do all the other things Davis is capable of remains to be seen, but his ability to do many things is a positive.

One thing he’s sure about is his own vision for the future.

“Yeah, this is a place I’ve been for five years,” Thompson said. “I don’t want to know any other place.”

But before they commit to him long-term, the Panthers might want to see what he looks like, now that he finally has a regular job of his own.