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Rivera thinks Kuechly’s a better long-term fit in middle

Julio Jones, Luke Kuechly AP

Panthers rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly has played so well in the middle this year, he’s creating future problems.

With veteran middle linebacker Jon Beason on injured reserve, Kuechly has flourished inside, after starting the season playing the weakside spot to accommodate Beason.

From the day Kuechly was drafted, this was fairly inevitable, but the job of massaging Beason’s feelings (he clearly prefers playing the middle, and is better there) was one the Panthers were careful with.

But now, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he thinks when Beason returns (his recovery from knee surgery is on target, and he’ll have shoulder surgery soon), he’ll come back as an outside linebacker.

“When you look at the different skill sets, I think Jon’s got the skill sets to play inside and outside a little bit more than Luke does. Luke’s skill set lends more toward being an inside guy. So we’ll see,” Rivera said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer.

“It’s still a ways away. But I think we may have found something here. I think it’s one of those things that you do what’s going to be best for us.”

The remarkable comeback of weakside linebacker Thomas Davis adds another factor to the mix, but the biggest remains the looming changes on the Panthers’ horizon.

We know there’s a new general manager on the way, and Rivera can talk about the future as much as he wants, but he doesn’t know if he’s staying (and with a 1-12 record in games decided  a touchdown or less, it’s not easy to make a case for him).

With all those known unknowns, the one thing the Panthers know is that they’re well-stocked at linebacker, with Kuechly looking like a cornerstone in the middle. He’s second in the league in tackles and has already tied the franchise’s single-season record.

So whoever’s making the call in Carolina next year would be wise to begin the project with Kuechly in the middle, and work from there.

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3 Responses to “Rivera thinks Kuechly’s a better long-term fit in middle”
  1. hart089 says: Dec 21, 2012 10:34 AM

    Ironic how Beason was trash talking Alex Smith before the season because the Niners were looking for something better, and then Smith gets taken over by Keap and here is Beason….Losing his spot to a rookie.

  2. turfdaddy says: Dec 21, 2012 2:09 PM

    @harto89
    Beason didn’t lose his job to a rookie. Beason went on IR. Maybe he would’ve eventually lost it to Kuechly, but it didn’t happen that way.

    Both Beason and Kuechly are good players. I don’t see Beason staying with the Panthers though after this year. I’m not sure what the cap hit would be, but there has to be a lot of cuts made for cap reasons.

    DeAngelo Williams, Jon Beason, Jordan Gross, Ryan K. could all have to either re-structure or risk getting cut or traded. They all are owed a ton of money over the next couple years and there’s just no way the team can make the needed additions without doing something with these guys.

    Also be on the lookout for the Panthers to try and tie up Greg Hardy in a long term contract. He’s having a break out season. It’s been one we’ve all be waiting for. Dude is a beast that brings some attitude to that entire team.

  3. Distinguished Male says: Dec 21, 2012 3:16 PM

    I see Beason willing to restructure. He is a stand up, smart guy, who has been fully supportive of this franchise. I see him, and one or two others (Gross) on the list you mentioned, willing to restructure to stay on board.

    But who knows. I’m not sure how prideful Beason is, so he might just have issues with not being able to play his natural position. Can’t move Keek from there now, thought. Keek is too good.

    Don’t get it twisted though. When fully healthy, Beason was a top 5 MLB.

    Either way, the improvement on defense has been a very welcome surprise. If the offense can rebound next year to be more in line with last year’s production, and the defense stays or improves, then they might have something. Of course, this was said about the team this year, and that didn’t pan out.

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