When talk turns to the Panthers' linebacker corps in a defense that has played in a resurgent fashion of late, the first and last subject is generally Luke Kuechly. Fair enough, as Kuechly has been one of the better players at his position since the team selected him with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft. But Thomas Davis has a more compelling story, and the nine-year veteran is playing at a fairly torrid pace himself. NFL 2014 NFL playoff predictions: Picks for postseason, Super Bowl XLIX 2014-'15 NFL Playoff Predictions: Our picks for Super Bowl XLIX by SI Staff
Davis is the only player in NFL history to return to the field after tearing the same ACL three times -- and he's operating at a level that belies that injury history. This season, the 30-year-old Davis has 100 total tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the NFL's fifth-best 4-3 outside linebacker, and he's tied with Oakland Raiders rookie Khalil Mack with 48 stops, good enough for seventh in the league. Davis isn't thrown at often, but he's proven that he has the speed and agility, as well as the short-area quickness, to cover when required.