Grill Bill: How to keep Shaq Thompson on the field? 

Shaq Thompson catches football

Website submission from Daniel in Kathmandu, Nepal: Big Carolina fan here currently living in Nepal. Love your column. With the switch to multiple fronts, and drafting Brian Burns and Christian Miller (both DE/OLB), what does that mean for Shaq Thompson? Obviously, he will be on the field, but as a 4/3 OLB will he move inside in the 3/4 front? Thanks! #keeppounding #keepgrillin

Let’s start with your “obviously, he will be on the field” because that’s key. So is Thompson's athleticism, and clearly, you want your most athletic guys out there.

Here’s how I could see it shaking out:

  • In a traditional 4-3 look, he’d obviously still be an OLB.
  • He’d also continue to be an option in big nickel packages.
  • But when they go to three-man fronts, I’d assume the best OLB candidates are Bruce Irvin, Mario Addison, Marquise Haynes, Brian Burns and Christian Miller. To make sure Thompson stays on the field, it’d make the most sense to play him on the inside next to Luke Kuechly.

The Panthers used a first-round pick on Thompson back in 2015 with visions of his versatility dancing in their heads, and that could begin to really pay off as they become more diverse on defense.

By the way, in case any of you are wondering like I was:

Distance from Charlotte to Nepal

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@Am_The_Bomb How is Marquis Haynes doing in OTAs? haven’t heard much about him

That’s gonna happen when you add a vet like Irvin and spend picks on Burns and Miller. But the Panthers will need a deep OLB rotation, maybe investing as many as five roster spots at the position. So Haynes is very much in the mix.

It sounds like he has more confidence these days, which makes sense in multiple ways. He’s no longer a rookie and he’s a better fit in the hybrid defense.

The Panthers spent a fourth-round pick on Haynes last year mostly because of his elite get-off. He’s still slight, but that burst and his athleticism give him a chance to take a big step forward in his sophomore season.

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@cheetoCLU Obligatory: Ummm, safety???

As I suggested in the last Grill Bill, and as we saw play out this week at the start of Phase Three of OTAs, Rashaan Gaulden is currently the favorite at free safety.

I understand the apprehension many of you have. Gaulden rarely saw the field last season, and he was best in a nickel-ish role at Tennessee. But the staff seems thrilled with the attitude he's brought into his second season, and they're going to give him a chance to win the role next to Eric Reid.

Yes, there are safety options still on the market, but the best way to get Gaulden reps is to keep him out there. Right now, it appears the job is his to lose.

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Website submission from Gabriel in Thomasville, NC: With all the attention in the secondary on FS, what about Nickel? If the answer is on the roster should we expect to see Corn Elder replace Munnerlyn? or would Cockrell or Seymour be a better fit?

With all the focus on safety – which is understandable – I do think the nickel competition isn’t getting enough attention. Especially when you consider the Panthers will still likely line up in that look the majority of the time.

With that said, it’s still way too early to predict who’s going to rise to the top.

Elder, Cockrell, Seymour are all options, as is Gaulden, depending on whether he can hold on at safety. So while it’s an important question, there are a few potential answers. It’ll take a few months, though, to figure out the final one.

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Website submission from Christopher in Brevard, NC: Is there any chance we would sit Cam till week 6? I think we would win at least 3 games in the first five with the QB’s we have on the roster. This would give Cam a chance to get full strength. Play a game and then have a bye week and finish strong. When Cam comes back, it would give defense rest due to longer drives and his shoulder would be fresh going into the playoffs. If we do this I think our record would be at worst 12-4, which should give us home field till Superbowl.

Some “any chance” questions are more “special” than others.

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Website submission from Lee in Charlotte: In light of the fact that the coaching staff enlisted fewer players into the rookie camp and cited reasoning that pointed to focused instruction and more attention to fewer players, all sound logic, why do they stick to the 90 players on the roster for training camp? When about 40 of those players won’t make the team, wouldn’t it make sense to carry fewer for the same reasons given for the smaller rookie camp roster?

Good call out.

For rookie camp, the goals are to give guys a foundational understanding of the playbook and to start acclimating them to the pace of the pro game. This year, they focused more on the classroom and individual position technique. There wasn’t much of a need to make it look like a camp practice since the new players joined the vets for offseason work a week later.

At training camp, the goals change. There they want to install and practice the full playbook while also trying to select the best roster. The best way to soak in a playbook is study + repetition, followed by more study + repetition. More players allows more of that. Plus, in any given year, about 65 players compete for the 53 roster spots while the other 25 or so are competing for the 10 practice squad spots.

And now, the lightning round …

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@ScullysDad1971 When will training camp dates be announced? We always drive down from TN for a weekend for Camp.

Those are usually announced mid-June.

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Website submission from Charles in Charlotte: Why is it taking so long for Burns to sign his deal?

We’re not going to do this again, are we?

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Website submission from Andrew in Charleston, SC: Bill, which is the better quote? “If you do not sacrifice for what you want, what you want will become the sacrifice” or “If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self.”

I prefer: “Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you’ll be a mile from them, and you’ll have their shoes.” – Jack Handey

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@TheBernanke _Understanding the quest for 365 NFL content, what’s the slowest period around the stadium? Who’s around? Who isn’t? Let’s call it a 2-4 week stretch.

The six-week stretch from after minicamp to the start of training camp is bruuutal. That’s why you get #listseason.

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@SorryAmigos What’s the best barbecue sauce for chicken?

Think we’re all partial to stuff from our hometowns/states. I roll with Mama’s Boy.

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@RudasillBilly When are you guys going to do a series called “Fits the Bill” where you dress up like Cam and take pictures? #InternetGold

Sorry, but this version of #DripChronicles from last year's training camp will have to do:

Bill

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