Allow me to start by saying: Please excuse the lack of in-depth analysis in this post. I've been moving into a new house and trying to get everything situated with that, and haven't had the time that I would like to dedicate to research for writing this post. But, since I promised Jaxon I would do this article, and I wanted to get it written before training camp started, I sacrificed some statistics and went with "my thoughts" on the linebackers. Again, I apologize if this post isn't statistically satisfying enough for you as you read, and all I can ask is that you forgive me if you feel that I lack any statistical evidence in the article.
More after the jump...
Panthers LBs currently on roster*
* - According to the Panthers' official website
** - Injured
Once again, the Panthers will have to deal with the loss of one of the key components to the defense now that WLB Thomas Davis is out with a second ACL injury (if you remember, Davis tore his ACL midway through last season, putting him on IR and causing the Panthers to adjust on the fly to playing without one of the leaders on defense).
With Davis' absence, there will be an intense competition for two LB spots going into camp, with Jon Beason set to command one of the three spots, but there should be a great camp battle between four guys for those final two spots in the LB Corps; and James Anderson, Dan Connor, Jamar Williams, and Eric Norwood appear to be the quartet who will compete for the final two LB spots.
As always, there are the typical "camp bodies" who will only be around for the next few weeks. Guys such as Quinton Culberson, Sean Ware, and Brett Warren will probably get an early release, and Jordan Senn could compete for a ST spot, but will probably be cut in the final roster trim at the end of the preseason.
Obviously Jon Beason is going to make the roster, and will be in the starting lineup. The Pro-Bowl linebacker is the team captain on defense and is the team's leading tackler for the past two seasons. So, unless he gets run over by a bus, he's going to be on the field every Sunday wreaking havoc on opposing offenses.
The two losers of the competition for the final two starting spots will most likely fill backup roles, and will probably be joined on the bench by Mortty Ivy, who should also see some time on special teams, unless one of the "camp bodies" makes an impression during the preseason.
Two guys that I would keep an eye on during camp and preseason are Eric Norwood and Jamar Williams. I'm curious to see how the rookie 4th round draft pick (Norwood) adjusts to the NFL, and I'm also anxious to see how the former Bears LB (Williams) adjusts to his new team since coming to Carolina in the Chris Harris trade that devastated a lot of fans (especially here at CSR).
I think Norwood has a chance to be one of the big impact players on defense this year, especially if he is used properly and allowed to rush the passer, something he excelled at while in the SEC at South Carolina. The former Gamecock holds the school record for sacks, and he should be able to bring his sacking ability to Charlotte and make opposing offensive coordinators have to account for his ability to get to the quarterback, which should free up other defenders to make plays.
If I had to predict who will make the starting lineup (which I do, after all this is a LB breakdown), I would say that the three starters will be Beason, Anderson, and Williams. I think that Williams will earn the final starting spot because from my understanding he is one of those guys who would have been a starter on just about any other team in the league, but was just unfortunate to be in the same LB corps as Lance Briggs. I don't think the front office would have traded Harris for Williams if they didn't feel that Williams couldn't contribute to the Panthers this season, and I think that we will all be saying that the Panthers made a great decision to steal Williams away from Chicago (kinda like we did after Harris became the Hitman when we stole him from the Bears for a draft pick a few years ago).
In the previous position breakdowns, percentage values have been assigned to each player for chance to start and chance to make the roster. Because there are so many players at the LB position heading into camp, and because many players fit into the same categories, I'm going to break the percentages down a little differently.
100% chance to make roster:
90% chance to make roster:
10% chance to make roster:
100% chance to start:
95% chance to start:
60% chance to start:
40% chance to start:
* - I believe that Anderson is all but guaranteed to fill up one of the two remaining spots, and I think that it's essentially a competition for the final spot vacated by Thomas Davis. I think that Williams is the leader for the final starting spot, but don't count out Norwood and Connor who should come into camp hungry for a chance to shine.
What are your thoughts on the linebacker position? Who do you think will join Beason in the starting lineup, and who do you think will fill out the bench? Do you think any of the "camp bodies" have a chance to make the roster? If so – which ones? Who do you think will make the biggest impact during camp? Who do you think will make the biggest impact during the regular season? I'd love to hear your thoughts, so let's get a comment thread started.