CHARLOTTE -- For fans of a completely different sport, the name "Shaq" stands alone. Playing alongside Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis hasn't made standing out easy for linebacker Shaq Thompson, but the 24-year-old has continued to make his case for why opposing offenses need to be weary of him.
In Sunday's win over Baltimore, Thompson shared the field with Kuechly and Davis for the third time this season (Davis was suspended for the first four games), giving the Panthers and linebackers coach Steve Russ another chance to see how the trio would play off each other.
The results were encouraging, with each player contributing at different points, but it was Thompson's career-high 13 tackles that leaped off the stat sheet and earned him a victory in the weekly competition among the linebackers for most tackles.
It's hard to be considered under the radar with such a performance, but head coach Ron Rivera credited Thompson for carving out a role on a defense with seven Pro Bowlers, two of which are at his position.
"He's really developing into, even more so, the player we believed he could be for us," Rivera said. "That young man's got a very bright future for this football team and he's a guy that's quietly just playing very steady. Another guy that you could say is underrated on our defense because of all the guys we have.
"When you're lining up next to Luke and TD, it is easy to overlook, but he just continues to play hard, continues to play well and make statement plays for us."
Thompson had his second-fewest defensive snaps of the season in the win (39) but he made the most of his chances. Defensive coordinator Eric Washington appreciated Thompson's focus, saying that Thompson understood and correctly anticipated Baltimore's formations and was "playing fast" and "ahead of the play."
Washington also commended how Russ has been able to utilize his "interchangeable" core and their skill sets. Having three linebackers that can impact the game is invaluable, and as Washington stated, Thompson has done his part to help make an already prominent group an even more promising one.
Expect to hear Thompson's name more as the season unfolds.
"I came into the season believing, and I still believe, that they're the best in the business that group together," Washington said. "There's nothing that has changed my opinion of that.
"Shaq has done a nice job."