Panthers' Beason coming into his own at linebacker

daringantt@carolina.rr.comNovember 15, 2008 

CHARLOTTE -- You could talk about his team-high 95 tackles, or the team-record 160 last year.

But ask his teammates what makes Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason so good, so soon, and the answers are hard to quantify.

"His instincts," Panthers safety Chris Harris replied quickly when asked what stood out.

"All of it. Instinct, attitude, ability, he has it all," defensive end Julius Peppers said.

Even Detroit coach Rod Marinelli, who's only seen the Panthers' budding star on film, can tell it.

"I really liked him coming out of Miami," Marinelli said. "He is not disappointing. He has really good feet. His instincts seem really good, very physical tackler and he plays with that great energy."

Earlier this week, Panthers coach John Fox pointed to experience as the biggest difference in Beason. While not exactly struggling last year, he was saddled by an eight-day contract squabble which caused him to miss camp time, and playing out of position until being moved to the middle after Dan Morgan was hurt.

He's been shuffled around a lot in his career -- fullback, safety, outside linebacker. But playing inside allows him to do what he does best -- read, recognize, run to the ball and do it all with amazing speed.

"They have him in the right spot," Marinelli said.

"This game is about playing fast, and the more comfortable you are the more efficient you are," Fox said.

Beason says he's still ironing out the kinks but feeling more comfortable.

"Just from an assignment standpoint, I'm making a lot less mistakes than last year," Beason said. "That's one good thing about it. I just try to go out and play hard every down. As a unit, we're doing that. We've got guys giving great effort.

"It's great. It makes it easy when guys around you are playing well. It's funny, but when we do well, everybody reaps the benefits. I'm happy I've got good players around me."

Though still just 23, he carries himself with a veteran's demeanor, has since day one, which is what impresses his teammates.

"Yeah, he came in and hit the ground running," Peppers said. "We didn't really have to bring him along, he just jumped in and picked it right up. So we're lucky to have a guy like that around."

There is a spinoff quality to Beason's play. It's probably not a coincidence that Thomas Davis is having his best season as a pro, or that the defense is second in the league in points allowed.

Retired safety Mike Minter said he's hardly amazed with how quickly Beason's become the main cog.

"He doesn't look different this year, because he always looked good," Minter said. "I mean, 52 is everywhere, it's like there's three or four of him out there on the field. The biggest thing with him this year, is how much better Thomas and Na'il Diggs are playing. You put somebody else in there between them, and they don't look as good."

Minter pointed to the intangibles, the "it" factor that Beason possesses.

"You can tell with him, there's no 'think-about-it,' there's just 'do'," Minter said. "Nobody's taught that. You can't teach a man to break on the ball like he does.

"Some guys are athletes, some guys are big, some guys are mean; he's a football player."

Peppers, the most talented and skilled player on the Panthers defense, echoed the other sentiments. Whatever it is, Beason just has it, even if you can't define it.

"He was born to play football," Peppers said. "He's a special cat, man. I haven't really seen a lot of people like him. I haven't been around any young players like him. He's a different guy, man."

The player and coach voting won't happen for several more weeks, but it seems a given (or should) that Beason will be rewarded with a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. The directness with which he speaks about it makes it clear it's a goal, though it's not a selfish vibe, which would supersede the team goals.

Unless you're a top draft pick or play in a big market, such recognition can never be assumed. It takes team success.

He laughed when asked about previous honors, like being named NFL defensive player of the month in October. Said he didn't know about it until he got a text-message from a friend. He's appreciative, but beyond openly campaigning.

"I don't even pay attention to that stuff," Beason said. "But when you do hear it, it's a good thing. There are some good players in the NFC side of the ball. So hopefully, I'll get across that water and get to Hawaii this year."

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