SBN's Ryan Van Bibber has ranked the NFL's LB sets and much to my surprise the Panthers came in middle of the pack. I'm surprised because given how poorly the Panther defense played last season its hard to expect getting any respect. You might also recall Bibber ranked the Panthers CBs #26 and their safeties #30. He apparently has a little more respect for the Panthers LBs:
The Panthers may not have done enough to address needs in the secondary or up front, but their linebackers should be very good this season. That made Luke Kuechly a surprise pick in the first round. Still, nobody doubts his talent, and he looks to have the middle linebacker job sewn up already. A healthy Jon Beason would help considerably. James Anderson will start on the strong side.
I can only assume Bibber sees a healthy Beason combined with a solid starter and an elite rookie as his reason for the ranking. Now let me be clear I'm not disagreeing with this assessment, just surprised. The Panther defense is hardly worthy of being given the benefit of the doubt after their 2011 performance.
I'm not sure why he says Kuechly will play the winner as we have reason to believe that at the moment but its not out of the realm of course. Notice he doesn't even mention LB Thomas Davis who could make a surprise and significant contribution.
Bibber put the Panthers #1 in the NFC South and four spots ahead of the #16 Saints. His opening line on the Saints group gave me a chuckle:
Too bad Jonathan Vilma can't sue to get his playing ability back.
Ziiing! Of course the fact they stole Curtis Loften from the Falcons is why the Falcons come in at #23. If you want to know why the Bucs the defense will still be bad in 2012:
Right now, this group looks like it could struggle in 2012. Mason Foster had a rough introduction to the NFL last year, and is penciled in as their starting middle linebacker. Rookie Lavonte David will start on the weakside. Strongside backer Quincy Black is the veteran of the group.
I obviously really liked David going into the draft as he was my 2nd round pick for the Panthers in the SBN Blogger mock draft. Though this group will have its growing pains I think they will end up much better than a dead last ranking.