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Carolina Panthers Position Analysis: Middle Linebacker

The Carolina Panthers have one of the best middle linebackers in the game with Luke Kuechly. He not only makes this linebacker group better but the entire defense. However, there are question marks in the depth chart after Kuechly.

Carolina Panthers Middle Linebackers

Name Height Weight College
Brian Belchen 6-0 230 Utah
Luke Kuechly 6-3 238 Boston College
David Mayo 6-2 245 Texas State
Jared Norris 6-1 240 Utah

Training Camp Storyline

How Much Will Luke Kuechly Play Early in Training Camp?

Luke Kuechly played with a partial torn labrum through the Panthers entire playoff run after suffering the injury in the first half in the final regular season game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He then had surgery in February and was able to participate in individual drills during the Panthers' offseason workouts. However, the team kept him out of any team drills last month.

The Panthers are most likely going to be overly-cautious when it comes to their star linebacker. He is one of the best in the league and doesn't necessarily need to be on the field during the early portions of training camp. However, with the changes they have made in the secondary, having him on the field, especially for the preseason games, will be invaluable.

Player to Watch

David Mayo

The one player to watch at middle linebacker this preseason not named Luke Kuechly is David Mayo. The Panthers drafted Mayo in the fifth round in the 2015 NFL Draft after he led the nation in tackles while at Texas State.

Even though he had impressive stats, he still has to develop to become a regular contributor on this defense. Last year, when Kuechly suffered his concussion, the coaching staff turned to A.J. Klein, and not Mayo, to start for this defense at middle linebacker. The experience Klein has in this defense and understanding of the calls was what gave him the edge. This is due to the fact that the middle linebacker is an important position, essentially being a coach on the field.

It will be interesting to see if Mayo has learned enough to warrant that type of responsibility early in training camp if Kuechly is not completely cleared to participate. This will be a strong indication if the coaching staff is comfortable with him stepping into that backup role behind Kuechly. 

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