The Carolina Panthers received the news they had feared Monday afternoon when Jon Beason's injury turned out to be a season-ender -- an Achilles tear suffered in Sunday's 28-21 loss to Arizona.
Beason, the Panthers' Pro Bowl linebacker, made his 65th consecutive start in the game. He hurt the Achilles trying unsuccessfully to chase down Arizona tight end Jeff King, a former Panther, on a 48-yard touchdown pass.
We can speculate all we want about whether Beason rushed back from a recent surgery to play in this game, but at this point I'm more interested in the future. Beason was the Panthers' most versatile linebacker, able to stay on the field in any situation because he was so fast and covered the pass so well.
He will be replaced in the middle by Dan Connor, at least on first and second downs, coach Ron Rivera said. Connor is not as good at pass coverage as run support and will likely come out in passing situations in favor of either an additional safety or a linebacker like Omar Gaither.
How much will it affect the Panthers defense? Maybe not as much as you'd think. Beason is a Pro Bowler, but linebacker also happens to be the one of the team's two deepest positions (running back is the other). They will miss his leadership as much as his on-field ability, but they are uniquely positioned to replace him.
What the team needs now, most of all, is for Thomas Davis to stay healthy. Losing one of the team's two fastest linebackers is damaging. Losing both -- and Davis has missed a lot of the past two seasons with knee injuries but is healthy now -- would be devastating.
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