Linebackers core of Panthers’ defense

In the weeks leading up to the kickoff the 2008 NFL Season, I’ll take a look at position groups that could potentially lift teams to new heights, or bury them and their postseason hopes. Today I take a look at how the Panthers have built a young, athletic linebacker corps through the draft.

Julius Peppers is the face of the Carolina Panthers’ defense – and deservedly so with his 56 quarterback takedowns in his six seasons at defensive end. But while Peppers often steals the spotlight, the strength of Carolina’s defense resides in its young linebacker corps.

Anchoring the middle of the Panthers’ defense is second-year player Jon Beason, the team’s first round pick in 2007. As a rookie last year, Beason recorded 140 tackles, one interception, and one fumble recovery. He was held out of the Panthers’ minicamps in May because of a wrist injury, but Beason is completely healed and expected to record another 100-plus tackles in 2008.

Playing alongside Beason will be another former first round pick in Thomas Davis, a converted safety from the University of Georgia. After playing at the strong-side position for his first three years in the league, Davis will move to the weak-side where he’ll line up behind Peppers on the right side of Carolina’s defense. With Peppers often commanding double teams, the athletic Davis will be free to roam sideline-to-sideline and thus make him a more dangerous playmaker.

Finally, veteran Na’il Diggs is battling former Bengals’ linebacker Landon Johnson for the strong-side spot. Diggs is expected to start, but Johnson could see the field in a rotation. Neither player is as athletic or versatile as Beason or Davis, but both are solid against the run and certainly won’t be a weakness.

Expect defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac to use all his linebackers in a variety of ways and even if opposing offenses try to spread the field, Beason and Davis have the closing speed necessary to excel in coverage. With both Beason and Davis, the Panthers should have one of the best linebacker corps for years to come.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts