What can Carolina Panthers fans expect to see from Linebacker Frankie Luvu in 2022 as the player steps into a bigger role following the departure of Haason Reddick in free agency?
Frankie Luvu arrived as somewhat of an unknown ahead of the 2021 season, a UDFA in 2018 out of Washington State, Luvu spent his first three seasons in New York with the Jets floating between the active roster and the practice squad while still managing to appear in 40 games during his three seasons at Metlife. Ironically it was actually during the scouting process of Luvu that the Panthers’ coaching staff became infatuated with Luvu’s teammate Quarterback Sam Darnold.
Luvu was expected to be a fringe roster player and a solid contributor on special teams. The American Samoan-born player exceeded expectation, after finding his way onto the roster and showing out in the preseason, Luvu cemented his place as a special teams ace which included a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown.
Luvu even made some notable contributions when he found himself in the defensive rotation, ending the season with 43 total tackles, one and a half sacks, and three fumble recoveries. Most impressively Luvu did all this in just 249 defensive snaps. He ended the season as the Panthers’ highest graded player according to pro football focus with a grade of 84.8, one of only two Panthers to grade over 80 in the 2021 season with the other being Panthers star wide receiver DJ Moore.
Luvu has big shoes to fill in the 2022 season, another player who joined Luvu in Carolina ahead of the 2021 season was the former 13th overall pick in the 2017 draft Haason Reddick, who joined the Panthers on a bargain one-year, six million dollars prove it deal. The former Temple man playing under his former college head coach Matt Rhule excelled coming off the edge, finishing the year with 11 sacks, his production was enough to earn him a monster three-year $45 million deal with his hometown Philadelphia Eagles.
The Panthers staff have said during the offseason period that they will employ a sack by committee approach with the likes of Luvu, Marquis Haynes and Yetur Gross-Matos expected to fill the void left by Reddick, the Panthers also selected speed rusher Amare Barno out of Virginia Tech in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft, the South Carolina native clocked an impressive 4.36s 40-yard dash, the fastest amongst linebackers and defensive lineman at the combine, however, Barno is seen as more of a long-term project, therefore expectations should be tempered when it comes to what impact Barno will have in 2022.
The Panthers were also linked with former Seattle Seahawk Carlos Dunlap after the player was brought in for a visit, however, it’s been reported that Dunlap has since signed a one-year, eight million dollar deal to head out to join the Kansas City Chiefs. Former first-round pick Dee Ford was recently released by the San Francisco 49ers, he could be an option as the Panthers look to add depth at edge rusher.
In all reality no one expects Luvu alone to replicate the 11 sacks Reddick provided a season ago, and the player probably won’t reach the dizzy heights of his near 85 pff grade, if he does Luvu will be flirting with a pro bowl selection.
However, Luvu has already shown in his short career in Carolina he just has a knack for finding a way to affect the game and if Luvu can do that he will be a key part of this fast young, and exciting Panthers defense under defensive coordinator Phil Snow.