Last season the Carolina Panthers had the brilliant idea to grab LB Luke Kuechly as their first pick in the draft, which proved to later be a saving grace for the Panthers when Beason got hurt. With Davis and Beason healthy, and Kuechly returning to hopefully have an even better sophmore season, the Carolina Panther’s linebackers could very well lead a shutdown defense with the level of talent and leadership available.
Beason has been a Carolina staple since he came to the Panthers and started showing his ability to be a Ray Lewis type MLB. Beason is a strong, overpowering force when blitzing and great in a zone pass coverage, he simply lacks the agility to cover a WR in man coverage. Beason’s only real weakness has been his ability to stay healthy. Last year he may have very well lost his MLB spot to the up and coming sophmore Kuechly, after Kuechly has an unbelievable rookie season.
The Panthers have moved Beason to a strong side linebacking position, which in reality means Kuechly has beat him for the MLB spot. Beason may be better here, consideing he is fantastic on run coverage and he could then be in place to handle the pitch or outside run. Beason may not respect the move now, however I believe the motive will become clear.
Thomas Davis has had a similar problem as Beason:staying healthy. Davis always tends to get a concussion or tweak an appendage right at a crucial point in the season. Personally I believe Davis is one of the best outside LB’s in the league, when healthy.
Davis is tenacious and loves to hit hard and follow through the tackle. A LB that lovs to lay out a RB or a wide out is a puzzle piece a defense has to have. Davis is also tremendous in pass coverage, and rarely bites to hard on the run to be able to back out in case of play-action. Davis is sure to make his impact felt.
A LB many fans may not remember is Jordan Senn. Senn is now a leader on special teams, but the man was a great MLB filler when Beason got hurt in Cam’s freshman season.
Senn may not be the best player on the field as far as talent, but he definetly has ability if push comes to shove and has great tackling form. Senn really stepped up under pressure, so throwing him in during a game when a starter needs a rest is nothing to fear. He understands his position.
The newest addtition to the Panthers LB core is A.J. Klein. Klein honestly surprised me as being the Panther’s 5th round pick. All bets were that the pick would go to a DB.
Klein, in college, was never great in pass coverage, although he was great on the run. With the Panther’s division filled with pass happy QB’s im not sold on the pick, but who knows? Klein could surprise everybody. Klein is most likely Jason Phillip’s replacement, a backup LB and a career special teams player.
Last but not least is the young stud of the Panther’s linebackers. Luke Kuechly showed up last year as a possible career MLB. Kuechly proved that he has the one thing, more dangerous than brawn at the LB position; he has smart reactions.
It would be a challenge to find a tackle last year that Kuechly did not have his hand in. He always rushed over to get a piece of the play; and for such a young player, he showed the maturity to lead a defense under pressure.
When you look at history, Kuechly has some big names to live up to as far as top LB picks. Those names include Vilma and A.J. Hawk. Obviously Kuechly is past the point of being an Aaron Curry draft bust, but he still has to prove himself since taking Beason’s MLB spot.
Will the pressure have an effect on the young Panther? Probably not, but anything can crack a player. The Panther’s linebackers are all studs and athletes, with depth being added with Klein and Senn. I would hate to block any of them on a blitz, or try to be the RB to run through them. Beason, Kuechly, and Davis all love to play and love to hit. They are bound to be the linebackers to beat, and I don’t forsee any team being able to beat them if they are all healthy.