Backing the Line
As much concern there is about the Panthers offense after playing Seattle, there is an equal amount of excitement about the Panthers defense.
A key component of the excellent defensive showing against Seattle was the healthy starting combination of Jon Beason, Luke Kuechly, and Thomas Davis.
Going in to Sunday's game against Seattle, containing Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was a top priority. Allowing Lynch to run the ball would have extended the Seahawks time of possession and worn the defense out further.
Thanks to the linebackers, the Panthers were able to hold Lynch to 43 yards on 17 attempts, or just 2.5 yards per carry. This is an amazing accomplishment as Lynch averaged 5 yards per carry in 2012. The Panthers were able to cut his effectiveness in half. Good stuff.
Luke Kuechly remains the leader of the linebackers, and the defense as a whole. Kuechly is relied on to make the defensive play calls and adjustments as needed. Veterans Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, two excellent leaders in their own right, seemed content to play support roles. After a Kuechly tackle I noticed Jon Beason was the first player to slap him on the helmet and encourage him even more.
Beason has been a mentor for Luke, and that hasn't changed. Last season Beason was limited to counseling Kuechly from the sidelines while the defense rested. This season that veteran advice is available at any time.
I expect this will help Luke continue to develop at an even faster rate. It is a scary thought for the opposition that Kuechly is only a second year player with room for growth.
Seeing Beason and Davis play as tandem outside linebackers was a real treat for any fan of hard nosed defensive football. With Star Lotulelei clogging the middle, opposing offenses this season will be forced to try to run the edges. As Marshawn Lynch found out, it won't be easy.
The backers of the line will be waiting.