NFL roundup: Injuries could cast a light on young LBs

Jon Beason (right) sustained a foot injury in Thursday's OTA.

William Perlman/William Perlman-USA TODAY Sports

News that Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason had been carted off the practice field on Thursday struck a bolt of panic inside the team’s facility.

While the severity of Beason’s injury is unknown, head coach Tom Coughlin noted the injury was to his foot.

Beason, a likely defensive captain, underwent a battery of tests at a local hospital, according to NorthJersey.com’s Art Stapleton. After rehabbing a season-ending knee injury in 2012, Beason was traded from the Panthers to the Giants for a seventh-round pick. The 29-year-old Pro Bowler was re-signed this offseason to a three-year, $16.8 million deal, which includes more than $6 million in guaranteed money.

Rookie Devon Kennard and veteran linebacker Jameel McClain reportedly split reps after Beason’s injury. 

Kennard, the Giants’ fifth-round pick, was running with the second team – ahead of Mark Herzlich – before the injury occurred.

“He’s picked things up very well,” said Coughlin, via the team’s transcript, of his rookie linebacker. “He’s very smart, very good on the board. He’s done a nice job on the field, a good job on special teams. We’re excited about him. A nice big kid, strong kid.”

Valued for his high intellect and the mental side of the game, Kennard was looked upon as a team captain and had the top GPA on the team while earning his master’s degree at USC. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound linebacker has applied himself during his short time with the team.

"I spend hours in my playbook trying to make sure, because if you know what you’re doing, you can play fast and not have to worry about that," Kennard said. "That is what I’m using this time for and all the reps I’m getting out there every day, I’m getting more and more comfortable and taking control of everything more and more. So it’s going smooth so far."

Spotlight on young linebackers?

With significant injuries and a suspension to Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington, Kennard isn’t alone as a young linebacker with potentially big shoes to fill.

Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Thursday to repair a torn ACL. His replacement will likely come down to eighth-year linebacker Justin Durant, second-year DeVonte Holloman and rookie Anthony Hitchens.

Sean Weatherspoon, who sustained a ruptured Achilles on Wednesday, leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the Falcons defense. While Weatherspoon played in just seven games last season, Atlanta counted on him as one of the main centerpieces returning from injury. His absence will be made up by second-year linebacker Joplo Bartu and rookies Yawin Smallwood, Prince Shembo and Marquis Spruill.

Washington’s suspension didn’t sit well with Cardinals general manager Steve Keim. After signing veteran Ernie Sims, the Cardinals are weighing their options with Larry Foote and second-year linebacker Kevin Minter. The loss in speed and quickness from Washington and departed Karlos Dansby is rather steep, but there is some optimism with Minter.

Finally in Pittsburgh, Ryan Shazier has made such a solid impression that he’s vying to become the first rookie to start a season opener in Dick LeBeau’s defense since 2001, as NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling points out.

One would assume veteran linebackers Jonathan Vilma, Pat Angerer, Tim Dobbins and James Harrison could find work sooner rather than later.

Alex Smith is growing comfortable in system

With Alex Smith’s contract extension a hot talking point this offseason, the Chiefs quarterback has been spending time mastering Andy Reid’s offense.

The time spent during organized team activities has been a bonus to his development in the offense.

“[He’s] definitely peaking and rising,” wide receiver Dwayne Bowe said, via the team’s transcript. “Definitely leading this offense and making tremendous strides on delivering the ball and putting it where it needs to go. That’s all you can ask as a receiver from the quarterback and leadership to help this team win games.”

Bowe, who has monitored his diet this offseason, claims he’s in the “best shape of his life.”

Rams sign all 11 draft picks, Bucs ink Evans, Sims

General managers, across the league, had a busy day.

While the Rams got all 11 draft picks under contract, other notable players such as Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans and running back Charles Sims penned their respective deals.

Evans, the No. 7 overall pick, agreed to a four-year deal worth $14.631 million with a $8.96 million signing bonus, a source told FOXSports.com.

Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard, also, put pen to paper on Thursday.

Eight first-round picks — Blake Bortles, Justin Gilbert, Eric Ebron, Taylor Lewan, Zack Martin, Ja’Wuan James, Johnny Manziel and Dominique Easley — have yet to sign their deals.