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Mick's Bag: Panthers changing WIL


In the nomenclature of football, "WIL" is short for weakside linebacker. Typically assigned to the side of the field without a tight end, a WIL needs to be stout enough to defeat blockers and support the run but fast enough to cover wide outs and backs, not just tight ends.

Mother Nature deals her WILs out very sparingly, and all teams covet these explosive playmakers. The modern day prototype may well be Thomas Davis, who recorded 71 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions in eight games last year before being injured.

"TD is a special case," said fellow linebacker Jon Beason. "He is so good in space, it's unbelievable. The speed he has, the quickness, and he has more range than anybody. He is a specimen, and I think he was getting to a place where he was the best in the NFL. For him to get hurt like that, it just makes you sick. As hard as he worked to recuperate from the last knee injury, man, it wasn't supposed to happen like this."

Davis suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee for the second time in seven months during a summer school practice on Tuesday and could miss the entire 2010 season. Even though injuries are a part of life in the NFL, the news has settled deep in the chest of the Panther nation like a bad summer cold.

"It is tough, but we've got 16 regular-season games facing us," Beason said. "We'll get through it. If it means me moving outside, I'll do whatever it takes to help this team. There is only one TD, but I believe that I can pick up the slack. Dan (Connor), James (Anderson), Jamar (Williams) and all the rest, we all can.

"I played WIL at Miami, I was drafted as a WIL, and I have taken reps at WIL here, so I am familiar with the position. An injury like this was why I moved to MIKE (middle linebacker) in the first place. I showed I could make that transition and assume a leadership role and I can do the same thing on the outside if necessary."

Already gone from the linebacking corps are veterans Na'il Diggs and Landon Johnson, so the loss of Davis could make an already young group even less experienced. But Beason isn't buying that.

"You kind of have one day to be a rookie out here," he said. "You get drafted, you come in, you get that one day grace period. It is a new (linebacking) unit, but there are some guys that have experience.

"The thing you look for now is chemistry. I could tell you what Thomas was thinking. I could tell you what Na'il Diggs was thinking without even talking to him. So that is one thing we are going to miss, but we have to develop that. On the field, I might have to be even more vocal to help insure that we have a productive down."

That problem solving ability is typical Jon Beason. In his mind, where there is WIL, there is a way.

Mick Mixon is the play-by-play voice of the Carolina Panthers.

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