Steve Smith: Panthers LB Jermaine Carter Jr. is defense’s new leader

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Steve Smith has experienced quite a bit with the Carolina Panthers organization. So when he talks about it, we best listen.

The franchise’s all-time leading receiver talked about the defense prior to Saturday night’s preseason broadcast, specifically of linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. He believes the 26-year-old can be that guy for this up-and-coming group.

“I think Jermaine Carter is the key guy,” Smith said. “Jermaine Carter Jr. has been doing an exceptional job in the last four years in his career. He lined up at SAM, MIKE, Rover.”

Carter Jr. was drafted by Carolina in the fifth round of the 2018 draft. He’s seen his role gradually increase since then, going from one start as rookie, to five in 2019 and seven this past season.

He is expected to take on his most meaningful assignment yet in 2021. And whether or not free-agent Denzel Perryman gets right in time, Carter Jr. will be a constant presence right in the middle of this defense.

“I believe he is the guy that can step up,” Smith added. “He is not Luke [Kuechly], but he can be the quarterback of that defense.”

(To be fair, who is Luke?)

Regardless, it’s time to buy stock in Carter Jr.