The Panthers defense was lost when linebackers Thomas Davis and Jon Beason went down the first two weeks of last season.
And even now, they’re not all the way back.
After an early camp setback, Davis practiced again Monday, which puts him ahead of Beason, and it’s unclear if either will play Sunday night against the Jets.
According to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Davis practiced for the first time since straining his calf on the second day of training camp. Davis is trying to come back from three ACL tears, and coach Ron Rivera said playing this week was possible.
“Absolutely. If Thomas is feeling strong enough and we feel he’s made a strong enough recovery, we feel that he’ll play,” Rivera said. “He looks good right now. The nice thing is he’ll have [Tuesday] off and we’ll see him back here Wednesday.”
Beason, who tore his Achilles in Week 1 last season, isn’t coming along as quickly. He’s been sidelined lately with a hamstring strain, the result of overcompensating for the original problem.
The Panthers aren’t planning on Davis being an every down player this year, hoping to maximize him by using him in specific situations.
Beason’s a bigger concern, as they’ve kept rookie Luke Kuechly on the outside expecting the incumbent to return to play the middle. Just as former Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans needed more than a year to return to full strength from Achilles surgery (he went from a huge contract to traded to Philadelphia for a fourth-round pick in a hurry), it’s unfair to think this year’s Beason is going to look like the pre-injury version.
Granted, something less than 100 percent of Beason is still better than what the Panthers had to work with a year ago, but expecting him to play to his previous level just doesn’t make sense.