Rookie spotlight: Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson showing athleticism

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- A look at Carolina Panthers first-round draft pick Shaq Thompson after his first four practices of training camp:

First impressions: Thompson hasn't spent a lot of time practicing with the first team, but the Panthers are working him into the mix. He showed his athleticism and speed on Sunday, the first practice in pads, when with the first team he blew past defenders to blow up a running play in the backfield. That clearly showed he is one of the most athletic players on defense. Thompson also is working on special teams, where he is expected to provide an upgrade to a unit that struggled last season.

What’s next? Ultimately, the goal is to have Thompson on the field with middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and outside linebacker Thomas Davis to create havoc, particularly on passing downs. But for now Thompson is having to learn a lot behind veteran A.J. Klein as he makes up for missing most of OTAs attending class at Washington.

Quotable: "A lot like we saw [Sunday], his athleticism really showed. Things he brings to the table, in terms of cover ability, burst athleticism and traces similar and traces of Thomas Davis. We're working situations where you can get him on the field with Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly and be very, very physical and athletic. He's a very smart, cerebral young man and he understands the game. What I really liked [Sunday] was his athleticism really showed. He's gotta continue to show that progress and keep working hard. He did a nice job." -- Panthers coach Ron Rivera