After Carolina drafted linebacker Luke Kuechly with the ninth overall pick last April, Panthers coach Ron Rivera tap-danced around the issue of whether Kuechly would play outside or in the middle, where the Panthers had a three-time Pro Bowler in Jon Beason.
Rivera ended up keeping the veteran Beason in the middle, and Kuechly began the year at the weakside. But after Beason went down with shoulder and knee injuries in Week 5, Kuechly moved to the middle and has taken off.
Kuechly is second in the league in tackles and has tied James Anderson's team record for tackles that Anderson established last year.
Rivera has not said definitively that Kuechly will man the middle when Beason returns next season. But he strongly suggested it.
When you look at the different skill sets, I think Jon's got the skill sets to play inside and outside a little bit more than Luke does. Luke's skill set lends more toward being an inside guy. So we'll see, Rivera said Thursday.
It's still a ways away. But I think we may have found something here. I think it's one of those things that you do what's going to be best for us.
Rivera said Beason's recovery from knee surgery is on schedule, and he soon will undergo shoulder surgery.