Linebacker depth paying off

The Panthers surprised many in the NFL world with the addition of Brandon Short and Jessie Armstead to their roster during the off-season. It was widely speculated that Mark Fields would not return from Hodgkins disease in football shape this up coming season, thus the reasoning behind the off-season signings. Along with the two aforementioned signings, the panthers still had Dan Morgan, Will Witherspoon, Mark Fields, Brian Allen, Jessie Armstead, and Vinny Ciurciu on the roster. <br><br>

With all of these quality linebackers, how is playing time being split and no one complaining?

As it would unfold, Mark Fields has been back for the first two games, but suffered from back spasms in last Sunday's game. Fields still hasn't recovered from back spasms and did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. He was receiving treatment and did not attend practice. He appears on the dark side of questionable right now.

Along with Fields being hurt, Armstead was put on Injured Reserve at the beginning of the season due to a shoulder injury. With Fields out, Brandon Short, 5-year starter for the Giants, got the nod against the Falcons. Though Short is slightly slower then the speedy Fields, he has filled in admirably. Against the Falcons he had 7 tackles and most notably had a slight altercation after a hit on Michael Vick.

Brian Allen has played in all 3 games, though mainly as a special teams player. Along with Allen on special teams Vinny "ChooChoo", as fans have dubbed him, has been a stand out on special teams, Ciurciu has been in on almost all of the special teams tackles, as well as being the immediate back up to the injury prone Dan Morgan.

Will Witherspoon has been solid as usual this season. "Spoon" has tallied 14 tackles and one pass deflection in this early season, and appears to be ready for another full season as outside line backer. Along with Witherspoon, Dan Morgan has started and played in all 3 games. When healthy, Morgan is the stand out linebacker that warranted the 8th overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft. Morgan has totaled 31 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 pass deflections already this season. His average of 10.3 tackles per game is leading the NFC, and at that pace after 4 games he will only be behind Zack Thomas, while ahead of the heralded Ray Lewis.

If the Carolina Panthers belive in the old saying "strength in numbers", then this linebacking corps is one of the deeps and strongest in all of the NFL. Thus far it's shaping up to be a pineapple-celebrating season for Dan Morgan. Carolina fans should be excited about this quality of players they have at linebacker.

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