If there's one linebacker in the NFL who's more overlooked than Jon Beason I don't know who he is. While the majority of NFL fans swoon over Patrick Willis, Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher as the paragons of their position (and rightfully so, they're fantastic players), while Jon Beason plays the role of Rodney Dangerfield- no respect. It's part and parcel of playing in a small market in Carolina, but really the only fans outside of this state who recognize just how good #52 is are the extremely hardcore football fans. That being said, when Beast steps on the field in Maui and leaves with an astonishing pick-6 it really helps his cause and starts the road to being recognized for just how great he is.
There are myriad reasons why Jon Beason is the embodiment of everything the Carolina Panthers organization stands for. He's one of those 'walk softly and carry a big stick' types that sounds like a mild mannered, well spoken man off the field and an absolute animal when he dons the black and electric blue and steps onto the field at BoA.
After the jump we'll look at Beason's first four seasons in depth and compare him with the aforementioned Willis, Lewis and Urlacher to see just where he stacks up in the scheme of things.
Obviously the reason Ray Lewis is so highly regarded is his longevity. At a position known to be one of the most brutal on the field he has managed to play 15 seasons through the rigors of the NFL. However, let's look at Lewis' first four seasons in the NFL:
Through his first four seasons Lewis played in 60 games, recorded 483 tackles, 13 sacks, 7 INT and 2 FF
Now let's look at Patrick Willis, who Beason will be inexorably linked to his entire career. Willis and Beason were both selected in the same draft and as such it's Patrick Willis who is always the yardstick to which Jon Beason is measured. I find this to be a rather unfair comparison as San Francisco's scheme naturally feeds the ball carrier to Willis even rushing down. Obviously, it takes a special talent to get all the stops, but there is an inherent benefit in the 49ers 3-4 that allows him such prolific success.
Through his first four seasons Willis played in 63 games, recorded 460 tackles, 15 sacks, 4 INT and 8 FF. Patrick Willis is shaping up to be the best 3-4 ILB to ever play the game.
If there is one player who should be a close analog to Beason it's Brian Urlacher. Both Beason and Urlacher have spent their careers in 4-3 defenses rather than the 3-4 schemes of Lewis and Willis but both are extremely disruptive linebackers. Like Lewis part of Urlacher's mystique is his logievity. Like Beason too he was able to start the first 64 games of his career.
Through his first four seasons Urlacher played in 64 games, recorded 397 tackles, 21 sacks, 6 INT and 4 FF.
And now we come to Jon Beason.
Through his first four seasons Beason played in 64 games, recorded 417 tackles, 4 sacks, 8 INT and 3 FF.
Over his first four years Jon Beason leads all four of these linebackers in interceptions, he is third in tackles, but first among the 4-3 linebackers and while he ranks last in sacks I'm sure Ron Rivera's blitzing, aggressive 4-3 scheme will change that quickly.
Off the field we know Jon Beason is the consummate pro, but maybe it's time more people took notice of his play on the field, because as it stands he's less Rodney Dangerfield and more Mike Singletary.