Jordan Kunaszyk can benefit most from Luke Kuechly’s retirement
by Dean Jones
Could Carolina Panthers linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk become the one who benefits most from Luke Kuechly’s shock retirement in 2020?
The Carolina Panthers are now just 43 days away from their week one opener against the Las Vegas Raiders. There still appears to be plenty of doubt regarding the NFL’s ability to start the campaign on time in the current climate. But at least for now, everything is moving ahead according to plan.
This is arguably the most uncertain season for the Carolina Panthers in recent memory. Their revamped roster has lost plenty of influential figures. And new head coach Matt Rhule will lead a coaching staff that has little experience at the professional level.
What comes next in the weeks and months to come will go a long way to determining just how long this rebuild into a possible contender is going to take. Some bold decisions were made by the Panthers’ front office during a busy period of activity since Rhule’s arrival. And although their offensive weapons are up there with anything in the NFL. Some substantial questions remain on the defense side of the ball.
Continuing our countdown feature ahead of the new season, we now turn our attention to Carolina’s No. 43. Jordan Kunaszyk worked his way up from an undrafted free-agent in 2019 onto the Panthers’ roster. And what limited time he saw the field came with some very encouraging signs.
Kunaszyk failed to hear his name called over the draft weekend last year despite notching some impressive stats at California. The linebacker recorded 264 combined tackles, 148 solo tackles, 7.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, and four interceptions over a three-year period. And his outstanding skill set won over the previous regime in Carolina almost from the outset.
This resulted in Kunaszyk making the roster against the odds last season. And although he didn’t make much of an impression on defense in his rookie year. The player did enough to earn a creditable 69.4 grade from Pro Football Focus as a result of his efforts.
The Carolina Panthers should expect more from Jordan Kunaszyk in 2020
There is plenty of hope that Kunaszyk can build on his valuable experience last time out. Learning from a legendary figure such as Luke Kuechly would have been a tremendous tool to call upon. And although this is a security blanket he won’t have in 2021. This is something that will stand him in good stead as he looks to make a second season leap.
Kunaszyk possesses good size for a professional linebacker at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. And he is a solid contributor in a three-down setting.
Impressing a brand-new coaching staff in Carolina will not be easy. So he will have to make every snap count during team drills at training camp with no preseason games for the player to stake his claim.
The Panthers go into 2020 with a relative lack of depth on the second level’s interior. Tahir Whitehead will fill the starting role in Kuechly’s absence. And Andre Smith is another that could make an impact if presented with a chance.
Much will depend on just how much Kunaszyk has brought his game on over the offseason period. But if the player makes the necessary strides. Then he is someone who could perhaps benefit most from Kuechly’s shock retirement after eight glittering seasons with the franchise.
Originally appeared on https://catcrave.com/2020/08/01/carolina-panthers-jordan-kunaszyk-benefit/