Panthers plan to limit Thomas Davis' snaps this season

The Carolina Panthers own a glut of linebackers and finding enough snaps for each of them has been a challenge.

With former first-round pick Shaq Thompson entering his third season, new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks wants to get the young player on the field more.

That plan will come at the expense of Thomas Davis. Wilks said he wants to curtail how many snaps the 34-year-old takes this season.

"With Thomas Davis getting up there in age and years, we've got to cut down on his reps," Wilks said Monday, via Bill Voth of the team's official website. "So there will be times where Shaq is going to be in, and we're going to try to relieve Thomas to give him some rest."

Upon drafting Thompson in 2015, the Panthers were creating a bridge at outside linebacker for the days when Davis was no longer in Carolina. The veteran, however, has defied Father Time, remaining one of the best sideline-to-sideline linebackers in the NFL. Davis enters the final year of his contract in Carolina.

In a defense that often uses just two linebackers, to get Thompson more snaps, the Panthers will up Davis' rest. Davis has played more than 1,000 snaps each of the past two seasons, and at least 900 the past four years. Wilks understands the veteran's fire and desire to be on the field every snap, but believes he'll handle any changes in stride.

"Thomas is a team player," Wilks said, "and he understands the long season and the wear and tear on his body over the years. It's just a benefit for him."

Wilks noted that a player with Thompson's upside needs to be on the field more than the 534 snaps he saw in 2016. It's up to the new defensive coordinator to concoct ways to get his best playmakers on the field together.

"We've got to create more packages for him, which we've talked about," Wilks said.

Having an abundance of playmakers at any position is a net positive if the coaching staff can properly manage any egos and coax the most out of his players. That job falls to Wilks this season.

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