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Three Questions: 2017 Linebackers

Posted Jul 13, 2017

The Panthers have perhaps the league's best and deepest unit of linebackers, but that doesn't mean they have all the answers.

As thin as the Panthers may be at say, offensive tackle, they have what less fortunate teams could consider an embarrassment of riches at linebacker. 

On nearly every weekly conference call with opposing coaches, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis get the "one of if not the best linebacking duos in the league" treatment. And behind them, the Panthers' deepest position includes guys like Shaq Thompson (2015 first-round pick), Jeremy Cash (2015 ACC Defensive Player of the Year) and Ben Boulware (2016 ACC Co-Defensive Player of the Year) 

THREE QUESTIONS

1. Will Davis get extended? 

Like a fine wine, Davis has gotten better with age, and the 34-year-old believes he has more than one good season left in him. But Davis's current contract is set to expire at the end of 2017, which puts the Panthers in a bit of a bind. There's no doubt they want to keep their emotional leader around for as long as he can play, but how much they want to invest is a harder question to answer. 

2. How many snaps will Davis share?  

Davis' future is made murkier by Thompson's development, a path somewhat blocked by the two-time Pro Bowler. Now the Panthers are preparing to cut back Davis' snaps, a plan that would keep him fresher later while getting Thompson more reps. He was drafted to replace Davis eventually, and while "eventually" isn't here just yet, part of the tough part of running a football team is playing for both the present and future. 

3. Can Boulware crack the roster?

We could've made this third question about Kuechly's health, the departure of A.J. Klein or Cash's development. But let's go with a guy many will continue to ask about the next few weeks. 

It was obvious this spring that Boulware, who's 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, has a size disadvantage. But Cash faced the same issue as an undrafted rookie a year ago, and the former safety fought and won a job. In that sense, Boulware has an advantage. He's a natural linebacker with a nose for the football. If he can sniff out enough plays in training camp and the preseason, the former Clemson star has a chance to beat the odds again.