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Ranking the NFC South Linebackers

Based purely on names and ‘potential' this would have been a difficult exercise to undertake, ranking the LB groups in the NFC South. But looking at performance and accolades the rankings fall right in place.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

#1 Carolina Panthers

#14 Rush 110 yds; #13 Pass 223 yds; #9 Sacks (39); #10 Overall

Thomas Davis - Luke Kuechly - Jon Beason

The Panthers start a Pro Bowler in Beason, a guy who's injuries have robbed him of Pro Bowls in Davis, and it's only a matter of time until Kuechly earns PB honors. No other LB corps in the NFC South boasts such a trio, making this an easy ranking at #1.

#2 Atlanta Falcons

#21 Rush 123 yds; #23 Pass 242 yds; #28 Sacks 29; #24 Overall

Stephen Nicolas - Akeem Dent - Sean Weatherspoon

Weatherspoon is exceptional and Dent and Nicolas are solid starters who still have some upside. The trio gives the Falcons a solid starting group and a #2 ranking.

#3 Tampa Bay Bucs

#1 Rush 82 yds; #32 Pass 297 yds; #29 Sacks 27; #29 Overall

Adam Haywood - Mason Foster - Lavonte David

Foster is a solid starter and David could be a future star. Haywood has been in Tampa for six seasons, yet he garnered only 11 starts. Either Dakota Watson or Jonathan Casillas could actually start over Haywood by the time week 1 rolls around. Regardless Foster and David are good enough for a #3 ranking.

#4 New Orleans Saints

#32 Rush 147 yds; #31 Pass 292 yds; #25 Sacks 30; #32 Overall

Victor Butler - David Hawthorne - Curtis Lofton - Will Smith

Hawthorne and Lofton are both solid veteran a 4-3 defense. Both will need to learn the intricacies of playing inside on a 3-4. Smith is a solid 4-3 DE but can he play OLB in a 3-4? Butler is an experienced 3-4 OLB but he did little in his four seasons in Dallas. Though this group could eventually be solid I think they will start slow at the very least if not struggle for most of 2013.

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