MLB – Jon Beason vs. Luke Kuechly. The Panthers will find a spot for both of them, but there’s a question as to which one will man the middle, usually considered the quarterback of the defense. Carolina’s first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Kuechly was the best defensive player in college last season, setting a record with 15.9 tackles per game. The team committed to Beason, a Pro Bowl MLB, last season, signing him to a $50 million contract extension. But Beason missed most of the year with a torn Achilles. He’s attending rookie camp to try to shake off the rust and get his reaction time back. Beason has been willing to change positions to help the team in past seasons, and if he’s not all the way back, it might be easier to let Kuechly stay in his old college position.
FS – Sherrod Martin vs. Haruki Nakamura. Martin is a big hitter, but he makes highlight films for negative plays almost as often. Saints quarterback <span data-shortcode= " data-canon="New Orleans Saints" data-type="SPORTS_OBJECT_TEAM" id="shortcode0"> torched him in a 45-17 New Orleans win in Week 17, and he missed several open-field tackles earlier in the year. The Panthers signed Nakamura during the offseason to push Martin. Nakamura has never started a game in his four-year career. Even if Nakamura doesn’t unseat him as the starter, Martin’s on-field focus should improve knowing the team has another option. Reggie Smith, a four-year veteran signed from San Francisco, also is an option.
After two years as a nickelback, Munnerlyn was promoted to the 'Number Two' corner last season, opposite Chris Gamble. The experiment didn’t go well. Quarterbacks averaged 10.7 yards per pass when they threw in Munnerlyn’s direction, which ranked 79th among NFL corners, lower than 14 nickelbacks, according to Football Outsiders’ game charting. Hogan, a fourth-round pick out of West Virginia in 2011, missed most of his rookie season recovering from a college injury. Norman was a fith-rounder in this year’s draft. Both are confident playmakers who will be given every opportunity to bump Munnerlyn back to nickel.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Carolina Panthers from blogger Shawn Krest, follow@CBSSportsNFLCAR.