Editor's note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Panthers matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m. (CBS), at Bank of America Stadium
[MATCHUP NO. 1: Raiders vs. eastern time zone]
Raiders RB Mike Goodson vs. Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly
Tale of the tape
Goodson (25): 6-foot, 210 pounds, fourth season, Texas A&M
Kuechly (59): 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, rookie season, Boston College
CHARLOTTE -- Still trying to put your finger on what the Raiders have been missing on defense all season long, really, what they thought they addressed in the 2010 draft?
Look no further, then, than at Carolina's do-everything middle linebacker -- rookie Luke Kuechly, the anti-Rolando McClain. And Raiders running back Mike Goodson, the former Panther coming off an 89-yard rushing game against Kansas City, will have no choice.
Per the Panthers' coaches film, Kuechly already has 174 tackles (114 solo) with a sack, three fumble recoveries, an interception and three passes defensed.
"I’ve been put in a good situation," said Kuechly, who was the No. 9 overall draft pick. "There’s a lot of guys in my linebacker room that have been very helpful this year. When you got older guys around you that are willing to help, it makes the transition a lot easier.
"The biggest difference is the speed of the game. That’s one of them. The thing that kind of goes unnoticed is how much more mental it is. There’s more meetings. There’s a lot more going on mentally, schemes are different, games are more intense. From the mental aspect, there’s a little bit more of a load."
Kuechly was moved from weakside linebacker to the middle in Week 5 with an injury to Jon Beason. The Panthers, and Kuechly, have not looked back as the Panthers have ranked fifth in total defense since the switch was made, and the rookie has had double-digit tackles in his 10 games at MLB, including 18 against Dallas on Oct. 21 and 19 against Atlanta on Dec. 9.
Goodson, meanwhile, is the Raiders' change-of-pace back to starter Darren McFadden and has shown to be a better fit in the zone-blocking scheme, at times. Plus, Goodson will have more to contend with than Kuechly. The Raiders running back might to overcome emotions as he plays his first game against the franchise that traded him this past offseason for offensive lineman Bruce Campbell.
"In a way," said Goodson, who was stuck behind Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams on the Panthers' depth chart. "You play with a chip on your shoulder. I'm a competitor. I like to compete. But I want to beat everybody. I want to beat them just as bad as I want to beat anybody else.
"No pressure. Just go out, try to have a good game. More excited than pressure."
Goodson was presented a game ball by coach Dennis Allen for his exploits last week and Goodson is averaging 6.7 yards per carry, on 30 rushing attempts.
"I love it, I love the offense," Goodson said. "I think everybody jumped on us a little early, even on (offensive coordinator Greg) Knapp. When you get a new team, a new back, a new offense, it takes time to gel. You've got the linemen who have to gel with the backs, the backs who have to gel with the cuts. It all has to work together."
And all against a middle linebacker making a case to be the NFL's defensive rookie of the year.