When I think of potential break-out players for the Panthers in 2009 I can't help but get excited about what LB Dan Conner might bring to the Panthers starting line-up. Conner is the Panthers ‘value' pick from the 2008 draft that only played three games on special teams before tearing his ACL. In Panthers.com Andrew Mason position review for linebackers here's what he had to say:
After three games, rookie Dan Connor was tied for the team's lead in special teams tackles. But his season was over, ended by a torn anterior cruciate ligament incurred in the 20-10 defeat at Minnesota.
Prior to the injury, the third-rounder brimmed with promise. While he wasn't able to break into regular-season action on defense, he had become one of the team's most active and dependable players on kickoff and punt coverage, which followed a preseason in which he notched 19 tackles, third on the team and second among linebackers.
The next step in his development, however, will have to come after his rehabilitation is complete
The kid looked very good in his first pre-season. Will he crack the starting line-up in 2009? It's hard to say because the Panthers already have a strong core in Jon Beason, Thomas Davis and Na'il Diggs. I certainly though Diggs would lose his spot to FA LB Landon Johnson but Diggs held him off. Will Conner be able to unseat Diggs?
I better question might be can Conner play the strong side? Davis seems a good fit on the weak side after his 135 tackle season and of course there is no budging Beason from the middle. He's been called ‘a tackling machine' so the strong side seems to be a good fit. I think given the way our defense struggled against the run down the stretch he should get some game action early. Given Diggs turned 30 this past year he might give up some 1st and 2nd down plays.
Obviously he first needs a full and strong recovery from the knee injury he suffered. I would like to know an update on that and I'm sure Marty Hurney has gotten one recently himself. He has to decide what to with the other LB's on the roster, mainly Landon Johnson and James Anderson. I'm expected Adam Seward to be the first to land elsewhere as he seeks a starting job. Johnson is still under contract and the Panthers won't save but I think $1M by cutting him. Given his versatility I'm expecting him to get one more season in Carolina to revive his career. Dan Conner on the other hand is just looking to get his started. Count me as one excited to see him do it.