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Monday, September 12, 2011
Thomas Davis must lead Carolina defense

By Pat Yasinskas

We’ve known this was coming since Sunday night, but it’s official now: Jon Beason's season is over.

The Carolina Panthers middle linebacker tore an Achilles tendon in Sunday’s season opener in Arizona.

What does this do to Carolina’s defense? We told you about the logistics earlier -- how Dan Connor will take over in the middle. But this is about more than logistics.

Losing Beason leaves the Panthers without their best defensive player and their unquestioned leader. Connor’s not going to fill those roles, so who will?

There really are only a handful of candidates on this defense. Ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy will have to step forward as players even more because the pass rush just became more important. It also would be nice if Johnson and Hardy became a little more vocal.

But the guy who might be the best fit in the leadership role is outside linebacker Thomas Davis. He’s coming back from two major knee injuries, but was an excellent player before that. He’s also got respect in the locker room.

If there’s one remaining defensive player the Panthers will take orders from, it’s probably Davis.