Jon Beason's hamstring problem cause for concern

CHARLOTTE—Perhaps it's because of the excitement over rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly and his outstanding play this preseason, but one thing has been overlooked: The Panthers' defense still has issues.

Middle linebacker Jon Beason hasn't played since pulling his hamstring three weeks ago, an injury he said resulted from overcompensating for his surgically rebuilt Achilles’ tendon. The Panthers expect him to play in the opener at Tampa Bay, but there might be a little apprehension considering Beason tore his Achilles’ in the 2011 opener after sitting out most of training camp with Achilles’ tendinitis.

As well as linebacker James Anderson played last season, breaking Beason's club record for tackles in a season, this defense needs a healthy Beason to avoid another long season.

Beason is a proven run-stopper who would team with Kuechly and Anderson to give the Panthers one of the best starting linebacker units in the league. He's also a vocal leader, something Anderson is not. Kuechly could develop as a leader, but he might be reluctant to speak up as a rookie.

Outside linebacker Thomas Davis, attempting to come back from a third ACL surgery on his right knee, looked good in an exhibition win against the Jets. But he will be a situational player who comes in on third down as a blitz threat.

Besides Beason, there are other concerns, especially the lack of a consistent pass rush and shaky coverage in the secondary—two issues that go hand in hand. Defensive end Charles Johnson has to return to his 2010 level, and someone—second-year end Thomas Keiser looks most promising—has to step up to ensure Johnson doesn't face double-team blocks all season.

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