The Panthers moved Safety/Linebacker Thomas Davis back to Strong Safety on Monday morning.
“The last time we moved him was because of what we thought was going to be an extended injury to Brandon Short,” Coach Fox said. “Obviously, the injury to Colin Branch is going to be a lot more extended, unfortunately. So, we are going to move him back to strong safety.”
The plan all along was to find a way to get Davis on the field. The staff had envisioned using him as a Safety on early downs, and a linebacker on 3rd downs. Putting Davis at Safety puts him in a comfort zone. When asked about his move last week, Davis towed the company line. However, listening to the tone of his voice, it was evident that he wasn’t thrilled with the move to a new position.
"If I'm on the field that's all that matters to me," Davis said last week after the move to linebacker. "Wherever I get to play at, it really doesn't matter to me. If it's at deep snapper, if I can get on the field and play, I want to do that."
"I just thought with his body size he was going to grow into that position at linebacker,” Defensive Coordinator Mike Trgovac said last week of Davis. “He's 230 pounds right now. He's a big-boned guy and as his age catches up with him it will be a struggle for him to keep his weight down."
So, is Davis done moving?
“When he made the move to linebacker, I said there was a possibility he could end up back at safety. I will tell you the same thing this time,” Coach Fox noted regarding moving Davis yet again. “There is a possibility he could be back at linebacker again. It's a long season, and things happen. Fortunately for us, he's got that versatility.”
Davis saw his first extended time as a linebacker on Saturday, recording 3 tackles against the Giants. At times he looked hesitant, but Davis made a few athletic plays that reminded you why the Panthers drafted him with their first round pick.
“Playing linebacker last week didn't hurt him,” Fox said. “He's still learning the defenses and getting out there playing. The tackling and playing blocks is all the same everywhere. It wasn't like he didn't practice all week. He was still playing football and hearing the defenses. Unfortunately, we've got to change him back. That just comes with the territory. I think he would have preferred being at safety if you asked him. So that's the plan now.”
It seems the odd man out is Idrees Bashir, who come to Carolina with the intention of starting. "At the time (I signed) they didn't tell me they were going to draft him, but they said they may," Bashir said of Thomas Davis. "It was a little bit frustrating, but if you have that on your mind then your performance goes down. I have had to make the best of my situation."
Bashir came to the Panthers after having started most of his 4-year career with the Colts. "He's been a starter in the league," Fox said of Bashir. "He has pretty good ball skills and he's a good center fielder. He's got good size and speed plus he's a productive player on special teams. We needed to bolster that group and we did."
One positive is that Bashir likely will see plenty of playing time as the 3rd down “Free Safety”. Davis would move down into a more linebacker position, Minter into a more Strong Safety position, and Bashir would come in as the Free Safety. The Panthers insist that there isn’t much difference in their safety positions, but it’s clear that if Minter and Bashir are on the field at the same time, Minter is the harder-hitter of the two, and Bashir the faster. "It has a defense that I like playing in," Bashir said of his decision to join the Panthers. "They do a lot of the same things that I did when I was in college (at Memphis) as far as blitzing. And I love the defensive front. I love playing behind guys that create that kind of pressure. The more pressure you have up front equals more turnovers on the back end."
It’s all about getting the best players on the field at the same time. With Brandon Short’s injury not as bad as feared, and Branch’s so decimating, it looks like the Panthers will have Davis at Safety for good.