The Carolina Panthers find themselves in an odd situation where they're about to regain an All Pro linebacker, but it's hard to immediately see how he makes the team better. That's not a slight on Jon Beason, not by a long shot -- but rather a testament to how well the organization have reshaped their front seven over the last two years. Obviously having Beason at weakside linebacker is an improvement, but it requires scratching the surface to see the impact he'll have on Sundays.
It remains to be seen how well Beason can rush the passer in a linebacker role, which is to say that nothing should be expected. He's never been the type of player who camps in a backfield, or gets consistent pressure on the quarterback -- and that's okay. To that end the Panthers drafted a player who can get upfield quickly, and whose 2013 preseason is already showing that ability. Kawann Short has been everything the Panthers hoped when they drafted him out of Purdue. Dave Gettleman called him "the most instinctive pass rusher in the draft," and right now this looks apt.
The NFL is becoming more specialized. Notions of the 'perfect player' are eroding, as teams come to terms with players who do a handful of things really well, even if they lack in other areas. This is being explained in scouting by numerous terms "how they win", "where they succeed", or "core strengths" -- but it comes back to the same basic tenet that football scouting is becoming more like hockey, where it's okay to not be a great all-around player, as long as a prospect fills a specific role on a team.
Short is not a naturally gifted run stopper, that much is clear. He doesn't clog running lanes well, and his stance isn't conducive to holding the point of attack. Star Lotulelei was selected for this run stopping role, while Short is the speed guy. It's clear where Short wins, he's extremely fast out of his stance and hits the second level with ease -- but this play style could become a problem as more teams confuse their running schemes, and utilize the read option.
Enter Jon Beason. Up to this point Luke Kuechly has been asked to do it all, and he has -- but getting back Beason supports a long-term plan to transition Short into a starting role. Nobody is better suited to play outside linebacker and account for runs off right guard. This will free up Charles Johnson to rush on unclear downs, and still know they can stop the run.
Philadelphia gained 58 rushing yards on right side runs, averaging over 5.0 yards per carry on such runs. Beason wouldn't have completely mitigated this issue, but he would have helped -- especially with Short on the field. The return of Beason has a domino effect on the entire defense. The front gets better by switching out Dwan Edwards for Kawann Short, while Luke Kuechly can concentrate on the middle rather than worrying laterally about the entire field.
There are bigger fish to fry for the Panthers to be successful in 2013, but adding another strength to their already strong defense helps more than it appears on the surface. If Beason can remain healthy this team will be very hard to run on, now it's about ensuring the offense can do enough on their side of the ball.