While most Carolina Panthers coverage is focusing on the offense, there have been a few really interesting developments on the Panthers defense lately. From the addition of Julius Peppers and Mike Adams to the long term signing of KK Short, there has been encouraging news. Gone completely under the radar, however, is the Panthers linebacker position and the current logjam of talent that can be found within. Most notably, the addition of undrafted Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware.
There are currently nine linebackers listed on the Carolina Panthers roster. This means a minimum 2 players won’t be making the final roster. If Gettleman chooses to add extra safety or corner depth this season, it could very well mean 3 linebackers are axed before the start of the season. Just to make things interesting, I am going to assume only six linebackers will be kept.
Lets take a look at how this might all shake out for Boulware and the Panthers.
First, I think we all can agree on the locks to make the team. Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Shaq Thompson, and David Mayo all have a spot on this year’s roster. Some may question Mayo being on this list. But, Mayo played very well last season while filling in for Kuechly. Throw in the departure of AJ Klein this offseason and it becomes clear just how much of a lock Mayo becomes on this roster.
Linebackers Ben Jacobs and Jeremy Cash made the team last year and both contributed on special teams. This automatically gives them a leg up in the race for a roster spot. They are Boulware’s competition, and they won’t go quietly.
Boulware has quickly become a fan favorite with his lunch pale attitude and well groomed beard. I mean, any kid that arrives hours early to practice and takes a nap in his car has my roster vote. However, I am not so certain the Panthers coaches care about such things. It is on field production that matters, and in this case it is all about special teams. If Boulware plans on making the final 53, he will have to prove he is a better option than either Jacobs or Cash.
If I was forced to put money down, I would say Ben’s best chance is supplanting Ben Jacobs. Jacobs is a fourth year player which means at this point he has likely reached his ceiling. Jeremy Cash is still getting used to his linebacker position and is no where near reaching his full potential. I just can’t see Gettleman releasing a player with so much upside.
So, it comes down to Ben vs Ben. Jacobs vs Boulware. Go ahead and add this to the list of must-see training camp matchups this year.