Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's July! Football's Coming Soon! LINEBACKERS Edition

Brethren: Well, lassies and lads, we are but a few scant days from the beginning of training camp and with it, the coming of the glorious 2008 NFL season. I wrote nearly two weeks ago that Nacho and I would be rolling out our Panthers season preview, and I intend to honor that. So since we already covered that we’re of the mindset that Jake’s our QB, let’s take a look at the group of on-field leaders on the other side of the ball.

Overall, this looks to be the stacked part of the defense. The depth is there, the young legs are a plenty and the head-hunters are there. On paper, this is a fearsome group. It’s interesting because in the Fox/Hurney Era, so much emphasis has been placed on the D-Line and they always seem to just plug in a decent veteran here or there along with a 1st/2nd rounder to hold down the LB fort. This year’s group harkens back to the days of Sam Mills, Lamar Lathon, Michael Burrow, and Kevin Greene, back to the Dom Capers Era. If there was anything I liked about that era, it was the players that wore jerseys in the 50s: they were a badass bunch.

The 2008 linebacking corps is starting to inspire that same kind of confidence in me as a fan. The voice inside me that says, these guys will stop a 225-lb running back train on a dead stop, pick off a rope to a TE over the middle, and blitz the fuck out of the pansy-ass quarterbacks that make up the NFC South. Fuckin a.

Full breakdown desde:

Brethren (cont'd): We take a player-by-player look at the LB Corps:

The Starters

Jon Beason, MLB (aka Jon BEASTon): Great Googily Moogily. We haven’t seen a rook step in, look around, notice the desperate need for football plays to get made, and just go do them like that since a 3rd round receiver out of Utah came in with a chip on his shoulder. I remember last summer liking the fact that BEASTon wore the #2 in college, and that was about it. I was still holding out hope for the now-retired Dan Morgan and I was wondering if we’d get some production out of Beason when Morgan went down in Week 6. I had no clue we’d be getting a really good middle linebacker.

Nai’l Diggs, OLB: The one guy who fits the Fox/Hurney “veteran” plug characterization, but that’s only at the surface. This man continues to make plays from the outside and will make at least one play a game that can turn a casual fan to me and say, “wait who the fuck made that hit?” Plus, absolutely stellar name.

Thomas Davis, OLB: The young head-hunter who kept getting swapped between linebacker and safety early in his career seems to have settled in at the OLB position. I remember when the Panthers drafted him pretty much to play “spy” on Michael Vick back when Vick was terrorizing the Panthers (and not pit bulls). Well, after moving out of that specialty, he’s become a ferocious OLB. The Charlotte media has wondered aloud for many seasons that the former first-round draft pick wasn’t living up to his potential. While he didn’t have the early impact BEASTon did, Davis is still a man on the outside. If he continues to improve, he could take this group to another level.

The Bench
Landon Johnson, LB: He led the Bengals in tackles the past two-three years, and he won’t crack our opening day starting line-up, if everyone’s healthy. An ultra-productive linebacker, he will lead the bench and can easily fill in at all three positions should one of the three starters go down. His signing was a very savvy Fox/Hurney move that characterized the under-the-radar, but aggressive offseason those two directed.

Dan Connor and Tim Shaw, MLB: Two former Penn State ‘backers, their presence on the team gives my buddy Big Mike an instant erection. Connor is a potential huge steal from the draft, as some say he’s even better than Paul the Polack up in Buffalo that came out of Penn State in 2007. Connor is definitely going to push BEASTon to make sure there’s no sophomore slump from him. Shaw’s another young hard-hitter and his Linebacker U pedigree gives him a nod from me; if we can get some stellar special teams plays out of these him, I’d be excited.

Adam Seward, LB: Scrappy dude. Never gonna be a starter, but mops up special teams duty and seems just crazy enough to enjoy it.

Brandon Jamison, Donte Curry, LB: Never heard of either of them, but they have names that J. Price and I would have recruited hardcore during our dominant NCAA Football 2006 UVA dynasty days. Side note: playing that game on Dynasty with a college roommate as a team effort might be one of the most awesome things to do. Receiving text messages during class letting you know that the 5-star QB out of Cali named Eddie Cannon just signed is one of life’s unheralded treasures. We also rushed for over 3,000 yards in one season with Mikell Simpson (the same 3rd-stringer who became the real UVA’s go-to running back last year). Damn, this makes me miss college. A lot.

And Just Because I Still Want Him To Be Around:
Mark Fields, OLB: This dude beat cancer and, with Sam Mils, inspired the 2003 Super Bowl run. He was crazy fast and would definitely put Reggie Bush’s 3.3-year-per-carry ass in his place. Well, guess that job falls to BEASTon now.

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