Going into the off-season the Carolina Panthers have 4 linebackers on the team that could be starters. I’m going to break down all four in a series where I plan to look at potential starters for the major positions.
Beason has been the cornerstone of the Panthers defense since Julius Peppers left for the Bears. Unfortunately, he re-tore his Achilles tendon in the season opener last season. HE’s on the right track to recovery and is apparently 100%. He’s played in all three spots for the LB’s but is normally a MLB. With the addition of Luke Kuechly, he has said that he is willing to play OLB and let Kuechly take the MLB spot.
Beason is a guaranteed starter this season and his addition to the defense will make the Panthers a viable defensive team. I see him switching to OLB in order for Luke to grow as a player, and eventually they may be interchangeable at either spot.
Anderson normally starts at weakside LB, but when Thomas Davis went down, he switched to strong-side and looked poised for perfection in that position. In 2011, he set a franchise record 174 tackles, breaking Beason’s record of 169. He could possibly stay seated at strong-side if Beason stays at MLB and Kuechly goes to OLB.
He’s another guaranteed starter for 2012 and was the only true bright spot in 2011′s terrible defense.
Battle for the Final Starter Spot
Luke Kuechly vs Thomas Davis
Kuechly is said to have been the only for sure pick in the first round of this years Draft. He’s led college football in tackles for a few years, and is an amazing athlete. I personally see a ton of Dan Morgan in this kid, hopefully not the injury aspect, and could see him taking the 3rd starting spot.
Davis is coming off his 3rd ACL surgery and is out to prove he is still a dominant LB in the NFL. If he can come out and prove his worth he might be able to beat Kuechly for the weak-side position.
As of right now, the spot is Kuechly’s to lose. The Panthers didn’t spend a #9 pick on a kid to not have him start from day one.
Kuechly might get the MLB position, but as of right now he’s practicing at OLB.
Unfortunately for Davis, this means he will most likely be a back-up for all three spots. He’s been a versatile LB when he played and could possible go in to give the 3 bigs rest when they need it.
That’s it for today. Obviously the Panthers are stacked at LB this year and if Beason can stay healthy, they LB core could be one of the best in the league. They need to provide the defense that was so lacking last season, in order for the team to hold onto the 2nd half leads they lost last season.