Jon Beason or Luke Kuechly in the middle?
For now, I choose Kuechly. (Joe Person has a nice story describing the choice the Panthers must make here).
Choosing Kuechly is not an indictment of Beason. When healthy this year -- and he has had both shoulder and knee injuries -- Beason has been good (although not great, he has missed some tackles you would expect him to make and had a key possible interception go right through his hands). And Beason has done excellent work in the past in the middle, enough so that he has played in three Pro Bowls.
The primary reason I choose Kuechly in the middle right now, in fact, is because I think Beason plays the weakside linebacker spot better than Kuechly does. When Kuechly plays weakside (or "Will," in football terminology), you can sometimes go whole drives without noticing him. Beason has started in the position before -- once for half a season -- and seems to get to the ball better when he's on the weakside than Kuechly does.
At middle, however, Kuechly shines. He was very good Sunday in the Panthers' 16-12 loss to Seattle. He was involved in enough big plays (including an interception and a career-high 16 tackles) that fans started chanting "L-u-u-u-u-ke" when he made a tackle, and they chanted it numerous times. It seems like that's the place he fits best (even though it's also the spot Beason prefers).
Beason and Kuechly both need to be on the field, for they are two of the Panthers' best players. But that's how I'd line them up for the Oct.21 home game against Dallas -- James Anderson at his normal strongside position, Kuechly in the middle and Beason on the weakside.
5 weeks ago