Lester could make run at ROY, too

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
8:00
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is getting early attention for the NFL Rookie of the Year, but another member of the Carolina Panthers' defense is starting to make some noise for the award.

And he came out of nowhere.

I'm talking about strong safety Robert Lester.

After spending the first two games on the practice squad, the undrafted rookie out of Alabama was signed to the 53-man roster due to a rash of injuries. Lester practiced so well that defensive coordinator Sean McDermott gave him a chance to start.

He's become a big part of helping the secondary go from one of the worst in the NFL to ninth in the latest rankings.

Lester has an interception in each of the first two games. McDermott likes what he's seen so much he likely will keep this rising star in the lineup even if veteran Quintin Mikell (ankle) is healthy for Sunday's game at Minnesota.

"Yeah, he's got the hot hand,'' McDermott said of Lester. "We're going to stay with him as long as we can. It's like going with that hot putter right now. He's done a great job, and it really comes back to his preparation.

"He takes it very seriously. He's really, from a coach's standpoint, very coachable and [has] great instincts.''

So what is Lester doing so much better now than he was at the end of training camp when the Panthers opted to cut him and then re-sign him to the practice squad?

"Asserting himself a little bit more,'' McDermott said. "Now he sees his role. He's embraced it.''

What others are saying: Most of the league didn't blink an eye when the Panthers cut quarterback-turned-wide receiver Armanti Edwards on Tuesday.

But in the Charlotte area, because Edwards led Appalachian State to a couple of Division I championships before the Panthers made him a somewhat controversial third-round pick in 2010, expectations were high.

Here's what Charlotte Observer columnist Tom Sorensen had to say:
"Armanti Edwards was not merely Armanti Edwards. He was the Legend of Armanti Edwards.

"He was a folk hero/two-time national champion quarterback at Appalachian State. He will forever be one of the most controversial draft picks in Carolina Panthers history. And on an otherwise pretty 69-yard punt return, he was tackled by a punter.

"Now he’s a former legend. He’s also a former Panther. In a statement move, general manager Dave Gettleman cut him Tuesday. It was a statement because why else would you cut him?

"Middle linebacker Jon Beason, a Panthers lifer, went to the New York Giants last week for a late pick that’s likely contingent on how big a role he plays."

My take: The statement came from Ted Ginn Jr. who proved to be a much better receiver and return specialist than Edwards, not a legend outside of the Appalachian State campus in Boone, N.C.

What others are saying II: This from ESPN.com Giants reporter Dan Graziano on how Beason, as mentioned above acquired in a trade with Carolina last Friday, is doing:

Graziano wrote that defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Beason would definitely be a factor at the middle linebacker spot Thursday in Chicago.
"We are going to integrate him into our defense this week," Fewell said. "We felt like it was important to get him involved. Just in his short time here, his inline quickness stood out. And he's picked things up quickly."

My take: Wasn't a lack of quickness one reason the Panthers traded him?

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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