September 9, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) warm up prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Assessing the Panthers Linebacking Core


The Carolina Panthers already had a pretty good defense last year, and it was debatable that the Panthers had a better defense than the offense last year. That defense as already gotten better with the new additions of Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short, Drayton Florence, and D.J. Moore, and with the additions to the Linebacking Core, A.J Klein and Chase Blackburn, I am expecting that the Panthers are lined up for an even better season on the defensive end of the ball.

The Panthers Linebacking Core was already set for another great season, with Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis coming off great seasons, and Jon Beason coming back from IR. Kuechly obviously the center of the Panthers defense and the Panthers have taken all the steps to put him in as the leader. Moving him into the middle, a spot that has been relegated to Jon Beason up until last year, positioned him to be the immovable center of the Panthers defense. I am expecting him to be named the defensive captain in the next coming years; it seems to be inevitable.

Nov 18, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera talks with outside linebacker Thomas Davis (58) after a personal foul penalty during the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. The Bucs defeated the Panthers 27-21 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Davis also adds another layer to the Panthers Linebacking unit. Davis is the Panthers Ray Lewis, or at least he is to me. He adds the emotional center for the Panthers defense, and though Davis may not be the better Linebacker, he is still a starter in the NFL and would be on any other team. I’m not so sure if you remember when Davis recorded that one interception against Atlanta, but I sure do, and when he caught that ball I remember the entire defense running up and celebrating with the rest of the team. Coming off of his huge surgery, his ready to work attitude only added to the strength of Davis’s stance with the team, reaffirming his role as the emotional center of the defense.

With Beason coming back, the Linebacking unit will only grow in strength. Beason is a three time pro-bowl selection for the NFC team and the defensive captain for the Panthers during his active time as the Panthers middle linebacker. And he only seems amicable to let Kuechly take his spot as the Panthers middle linebacker, he also seems willing to do anything for the future success for the Panther’s franchise. However, the Panthers did cut James Anderson during the offseason leaving them without their starting outside linebacker for a small amount of time, before we knew where Beason would end up.

May 10, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers linebacker A.J. Klein (56) walks to the field prior to the start of practice held at the Carolina Panthers practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers made up for it by acquiring Chase Blackburn from the Giants and A.J. Klein through the 2013 NFL Draft, two quality Linebackers who add some serious depth to the unit.  Not to mention the quality backup Linebacker and special teams captain, Jordan Senn. So with all that being said, I honestly and truly think that the Panthers Linebacking unit will definitely improve from next year. Klein works hard, being one of the players that Ron Rivera has praised the most from the team mini-camp, and with his ability to play all three spots with the unit I expect him to be the first backup for all three spots. Blackburn also seems to be his very own entity. A special teams captain with the Giants for the past two years, Blackburn has worked his way up from the bottom, an undrafted free agent out of Akron, not getting any recognition at the beginning but then working hard to earn a starting job through hard work in the special teams unit. He also is a Super Bowl champion, something the Panthers seem to lack.

The Panthers have a great Linebacking unit. When it’s all said and done, the Panthers may have one of the better Linebacking units in the entire NFC and possibly the NFL. The unit is obviously a strength for the Panthers and is something the team should try to exploit. It should prove for a very exciting year for the Panthers Linebacking unit, something I can’t wait to see. That’s what I think about the Panthers Linebacking unit but, as always, what do you guys think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Tags: Carolina Panthers Luke Kuechly

  • Dan Tuttle

    Tony,
    I enjoyed your blog, but you need to proof read your work. There are several grammatical mistakes. Your knowledge is good, but you get a C on not taking the time to make sure it is totally right on presentation. Keep blogging and good luck.

    • Tony Cardwell

      Thank you Dan! I did proof read this article as well as all of my others, but apparently I need to get another opinion. Thank you for bringing this to my attention! It will be fixed, I promise!

  • ahrcshaw

    “It’s never over until its over”, Yogie Bera. Good article Tony, it lays out the works very well. The whole defense has improved, even the DB’s. The major sin the DB’s made was missing tackles, its not an easy thing stopping a good running back in the open field, or a receiver getting one step on you. Mr Gettleman is right, a good defense this day and age starts with stopping the QB from being able to get set and pass. Drew Breese pick the Panthers apart many times, so with an excellent front 4 with very good backups the opposing QB is going to be in big trouble. Add to that the LB’s being able to move freely either to defend against the pass or run, which will stop the short pass to the back coming out of the backfield. This could be a very good year for the Panthers, they have the potential to score big and stop the opposition from scoring, and that’s how you win games.

  • Dan Tuttle

    Excellent analysis!

  • Harold

    I agree the front four is going to make many quarterbacks miserable this year. I can not wait to see the new guys get after it. The linebackers are top notch. We have the best defense in the division. It is not even arguable. Yes, we holes in the secondary, but every team has holes. A strong front seven can mask that deficiency.