Carolina Panthers Preseason Spotlight: Jeremy Leman

Austin Penny@@AustinPennyAnalyst IAugust 18, 2009

This is the first of a four-part installment that will highlight an outstanding performance in each preseason game by a Panthers player who is fighting for a job.  

The first preseason game left a lot to be desired for the Panthers, but the good news is they got a chance to see some of the under-the-radar players mired deep in depth chart battles get a solid chunk of playing time.  

The "film time" that these players are able to get during these meaningless exhibitions goes a long way towards deciding whether or not they turn in their playbooks before all is said and done.

It is often said that a player could make a roster or be cut on the basis of a single play. One play that a player takes off or goes the extra mile on could be the difference.  To a point, if you're an obsessive football fan, that's what makes the preseason intriguing.  

Though it is tough to watch when you spend more time checking your roster sheet than watching the action, it is necessary to gain a complete understanding of the depth of your favorite team.

Tonight's preseason profile is on Jeremy Leman.  Leman is a 6-foot, 2-inch, 240-pound linebacker who is in his second year out of the University of Illinois.  Leman recorded over 400 tackles at Illinois and was a consensus All-American in his senior season.

Leman was undrafted in the 2008 NFL Draft and signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Vikings.  He made it to the last cut before being waived.

After spending the entire 2008 season without an NFL roster spot, the Panthers signed Leman to a future contract in January after their playoff exit.  A future contract is one that is signed between a team's final game of the season and March of the calendar year of the next season.  

Leman is buried deep among a talented group of Panthers linebackers.  There are currently 10 linebackers on the depth chart, and you would assume the team would keep no more than six, maybe seven if somebody stands out on special teams.

Heading into the game against the Giants on Monday, Leman was listed at third string middle linebacker behind Jon Beason and Dan Connor.

Leman started the second half for the Panthers and quickly made a name for himself.  Leman could consistently be seen in the backfield on rushing plays and was never far from the pile on defensive stops.  He exhibited quickness and serious work ethic as he flew all over the field.

Leman finished with seven tackles, but it seemed like he got the most calls from the Monday Night Football crew in the booth.  He was second on the team behind Connor's nine.

The camera focused in on Leman a couple of different times, who looked like a man possessed.  His screams of intensity were a welcome sign as it seemed at times last year like the defense was lacking fire as a unit.

Leman also recorded a special teams tackle—a good omen for him as he fights for a roster spot.

Leman's chances of making the active squad are still bleak after the first preseason game, but if he can match the effort and intensity he showed tonight, he may find himself suiting up for the Cats in 2009, if not on Sundays then as a member of the practice squad.

One possible scenario could result in a cap casualty coming from the linebacking corps.  Landon Johnson has underperformed since coming to the Panthers from Cincinnati last season.  He recorded only 14 tackles last year and has struggled to fit into the Panthers' system.  

On top of that, Johnson has missed a considerable amount of action during training camp due to injury.  If he doesn't find a way to impress the Panthers staff before cuts begin, he could be released to free some cap space to sign a veteran defensive tackle.

Congratulations to Jeremy on a big night.