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Panthers: Crowded Field at Linebacker

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Crowded Field at Llinebacker June 28, 2006 By Brett Borden Panthers.com Competition is the life blood of any training camp, regardless of the position. Coaches don't like ceding anything to the players, regardless of their credentials, because making them earn ...

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Old 07-11-2006, 10:28 AM   #1
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Panthers: Crowded Field at Linebacker

Crowded Field at Llinebacker
June 28, 2006

By Brett Borden

Competition is the life blood of any training camp, regardless of the position. Coaches don't like ceding anything to the players, regardless of their credentials, because making them earn it encourages the honing of skills and the competitive edge necessary in such a physical sport.

One of the toughest competitions in recent Panthers history is shaping up at linebacker. While it's likely that 2004 Pro Bowler Dan Morgan will start in the middle, who will man the two outside positions next to him has yet to be determined. The list of candidates is long and hungry.

* Thomas Davis is a converted safety and 2005 first round draft choice who displayed a knack for playing the joker position in the Panthers defense late last season.

* Keith Adams started 16 games at linebacker for Philadelphia last season, posting a career-high 101 tackles.

* Na'il Diggs started 80 games for Green Bay from 2000-2005, recording 541 tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

* Chris Draft started three games in 2005 for the Panthers, registering 56 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

* Rookie James Anderson arrives via the third round of this year's NFL draft from Virginia Tech.

* Adam Seward showed flashes of starter potential as a rookie in 2005 before being placed on injured reserve after just four games.

* Vinny Ciurciu, Sean Tufts, Korey Jenkins and David Bergeron, all of whom have NFL experience, add depth to the unit.

Each player heads to Spartanburg with visions of starting when the team returns to Charlotte. Each brings something different to the table.

"We've just got to let it sort itself out in training camp," said defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac. "We've got to see who comes out on top. There is a lot of competition there. It's going to be a lot of fun.

"(Adams and Diggs) are good, veteran players. What they are is smart. They're picking up the system well. That's what we wanted with (Davis) being younger, and we knew we were going to draft a player and we ended up drafting James (Anderson). We wanted some veterans sitting in there to make sure we weren't too young at the position. Plus, we've got Seward, and Adam is on his way back. He's a good player, too."

Last year Morgan had veterans Will Witherspoon and Brandon Short starting beside him. Both are gone, and he says the number of replacement candidates in camp is impressive.

"I know we've got a lot more depth than we've had in the past," said Morgan. "We've got a lot of veteran guys in there that might not know our system yet but have been there and have played and have been productive."

Adams had the most experience last season, starting 16 games for the first time in his career. He knows the situation he is facing and is tackling it head on.

"I've had competition ever since I came into the NFL and I don't shy away from it," said Adams. "It's something that I really strive for and try to compete each and every day. I'm just here to try to get better each and every day, learn the scheme of the defense and play all out."

Diggs has the most overall experience, but like Adams, it was experience in another system.

"My expectation was to come in here and to prove to not only myself but the coaches that I'm able to play this scheme better than they expected," said Diggs. "I am accustomed to starting and that's what I would prefer, but by no means did I expect to come in here (expecting it to be a given.). In camp they may switch up the rotation because that's what we've been kind of doing so it's not really a said-and-done thing."

Davis, meanwhile, is the one who may open the most eyes in camp. A natural athlete, he opened at safety a year ago, was moved to linebacker midway through camp, then moved back a week later. The coaching staff has moved him back to linebacker with the intent of keeping him there for good. And that's good for Davis.

"Right now I'm a lot more comfortable playing the position I'm going to be playing from last year," said Davis. "I'm taking in a lot of information from Dan Morgan, Chris Draft, and the other linebackers that we had last season."

Anderson's arrival will bring certain comparisons to Witherspoon, with both having been chosen in the third round. He has a chance to see the field early in certain situations.

"James intrigues our staff because he can run and reminds us a little bit of a young Will Witherspoon," said linebackers coach Ken Flajole. "He is intelligent and bright and could play the dime for us in our long-yardage packages."

All in all, it's an eclectic mix of talent and experience. The coaches always have tough decisions to make during training camp, but this year the decision on which linebackers will start could be the toughest of all.



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Old 07-11-2006, 10:35 AM   #2
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RE: Panthers: Crowded Field at Linebacker

Break a leg.
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Old 07-11-2006, 07:40 PM   #3
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How much better are their starters than ours?
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Old 07-11-2006, 08:13 PM   #4
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Whoever we have in the middle, won't be nearly as good as Morgan is. He's a stud linebacker and when he's completely healthy, in my opinion I think he's one of the best. Injuries plagued his career but he's shown what he can do starting 15 16 games. They lost Witherspoon who was a key player, so I'd say we're about the same on the outside. Fuji is as solid as Diggs and I'd say a healthy and motivated Simmons will rival Davis who is still only in this second year. Collectively, I'd give them the edge because they have an established ProBowl middle linebacker. And... since they're very strong upfront, it's only going to widen the gap from there.
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